Making Panoramas

Making panoramas is a two part process. The first part in creating a panorama is taking a connecting series of images. The simplest way of taking the images is in a series taken horizontally. The second part is joining the images together using a computer program which aligns them. In this article I will explain how to take the images and stitch them together using the automatic mode of a free program. In part 2 (coming soon) I will explain how to do it manually.

Choosing your location and scene

The scene that you are making a panorama from should be “in the distance” since many cameras/lenses create some distortion of the image close up.

This can easily be seen in the image below, as the walls of the harbor appear curved.

You should take the images in you camera’s manual mode. In the automatic modes, the camera may change one or more of the exposure settings (shutter speed, aperture, or ISO). After focusing, make sure that the auto-focus is off. Use a small aperture to increase the depth of field.

The panorama stitching program will be able to adjust the pictures to compensate for the changes in lighting, but it is best to choose a scene where all the images will be correctly exposed using the same shutter speed.

Preparing to shoot your images

A for many other types of photographs, to get the best results when making panoramas you should always use a tripod. Make sure that the tripod is stable and that you can easily rotate the camera. Use either a shutter release cable or the shutter delay setting to reduce the chance of shaking the camera.

Make sure that the camera remains level as you rotate it; if the tripod isn't completely vertical then the angle of the camera will change as it is rotated.

Using a spirit level is an easy way to check that the camera is level.

Taking the images

After taking each image rotate the camera carefully in the direction where the next image will be taken. When rotating the camera use either the viewfinder or the display to see when a new image will overlap the old image by at least 50%.

To minimize the chance of the deer having moved in the images, I took more images with a greater overlap. If necessary I could exclude images where the deer had moved.

Panorama Programs

In this tutorial I will be using the free program “Hugin - Panorama photo stitcher” (http://hugin.sourceforge.net/), which is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Hugin provides the option for an almost completely automatic creation of the panorama. If the images that you have taken have enough detail for the program to automatically “see” and align, and the scene doesn't change, then there is a good chance that the 3 step “Assistant” will automatically create your panorama.

Step 1

Load the images that you have taken

Step 2

Use the Align function to have the program detect the similar points in the images.

Step 3

Press the “Create panorama...” button whereupon you will be asked where you would like to save your final image. Your panorama will then be created.

What if the program fails to stitch your images together?

If Hugin fails to create a panorama from your images automatically, then it is possible to manually adjust the settings in each step of the process. The advanced steps for making panoramas will be explained in detail in part 2 (coming soon).

by Simon James Allanach, edited by Alan Frost
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