Panoramas are a great way to capture the breadth and details of a scene. The extended space means that you can capture more details and give the viewer a much more comprensive image. The traditional methods of creating panoramic photography are still being used today, although at a much faster, more affordable rate. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you capture those breath-aking horizons.
Frame your shot
The most common method of composing a panoramic shot is by stitching a sequence of multiple images together along either a horizontal or vertical plane, with a degree of overlap between each image. This can be done with Photoshop or other stand-alone stitching applications. Use the rule of thirds when composing your frame, at a 3:1 ratio, with the point of interest composed at the intersection of the center third.
It is best to shoot vertically, to reduce the amount of lens distortion at the edges of the frame; vertical images capture more of the sky and ground and yield a higher resolution panorama compared to horizontal ones. Shoot each frame with an ample overlay (about 30%) to anticipate the stitching. Be cautious of shooting moving subjects within your frame as they may reappear in every frame, and you’ll have to spend time removing them in post-production.
Make sure you use a tripod to ensure your horizon is level (it’s best to use a tripod with a spirit level). What you’re trying to avoid is image parallax. This occurs when near and far objects don’t align in overlapping images. It can be eliminated by placing the optical center of the lens (not the camera) directly over the point of rotation. A panoramic tripod head can come in handy – this will fix your camera onto the tripod at its nodal rotation point, notching on its rotary axis, enabling your camera to turn exactly the number of degrees needed between two consecutive pictures.
Another little trick is to enable the grid option in your camera to help you line up your lines, and act as a reference point to your background.
Use a cable release to prevent camera shake, especially in low light conditions. You can also use the mirror lock option to prevent further camera shake.
While a wide angle lens may seem like the obvious choice for panoramas, we recommend lenses between 35mm-70mm to reduce the distortion at the edges. You want every frame to be the same; the same exposure, focus, white balance, etc.
Shoot in manual mode, with a f-stop between f 8.0 and f 11.0 to increase your depth of field and to reduce vignetting at the sides of the images. You can focus with the auto focus on, but shoot in manual focus mode so that your camera doe not change your focal point from frame to frame.
Finally, work fast, because that light is going to change! When stitching your images together, allow for at least 30% overlap between images. Select all the images you want to stitch together and save them to an individual folder, keeping the original file names so they will remain in the order they were shot. Use the Photomerge tool in Photoshop with the Blend Images Together box ticked. Import your images, adjusting each layer to their optimum merge, et voilà, you have your panorama!