Panorama Preikestolen Norway

Panoramic photography

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Breathtaking views and impressive landscape shots take up a lot of space. Often, even the best wide-angle lens is not enough to capture all the details of the environment in a single image. That’s why photographers use panorama shots.

The possibilities for creating panoramia photos are manifold. A vertical or a horizontal panorama, a 180-degree picture or all-round shots – almost anything is possible with modern photo technology. In our article, we give you tips for achieving optimal panorama results and show you how you can capture magnificent moments without expensive camera equipment.

Equipment required for panorama photography

Careful preparation is required in order to create the most perfect images possible. Not only the right subject is important, but also the optimal equipment. Which camera should be used? Is it important to use a tripod? And what additional equipment is needed in contrast to classic photography?

Camera – DSLR, compact camera or smartphone?

It’s quite obvious: the professionals also swear by their SLR camera when it comes to panorama photography. DSLR cameras are best suited for taking high-quality pictures thanks to their wide range of adjustment options. But even here this is not a necessity. Many system and compact cameras now have sufficiently good lenses and resolutions to produce high-quality panorama images. In case you don’t have a proper camera at hand, even a smartphone is sufficient.

Tripods for panorama photography

A tripod is not absolutely necessary for a successful panorama picture. You can also take great pictures from your hands, which can later be combined into beautiful panoramas. However, you need a steady hand. If you don’t have that or if you want to capture a viewing angle of more than 180 degrees, we recommend the use of a tripod. Even subjects that are relatively close to the camera can be photographed better this way.

For optimal results, professional photographers use special panorama tripod heads. These so-called nodal point adapters ensure that the camera lens is aligned with the rotation axis of the tripod. This prevents perspective distortions and shifts or at least reduces them to a minimum. Motorised panorama tripod heads do the work almost automatically, provided the necessary small change is available.

Panorama of a meadow with distortion

Correct camera alignment helps to avoid unwanted distortion.
Source: René Gropp

Create a panorama from single images

Usually, panorama pictures are composed from many individual shots with the help of an image processing program in such a way that a seamless panorama photo is created. In order to make the post-processing as easy as possible, you should take enough time for the optimal preparation before taking the picture.

Preparation

Normally, the single images are taken in portrait format. In contrast to landscape format, this allows a much larger area of the environment to be captured in the image. The individual images should overlap by at least 20 percent, but an even larger overlap is better. This way you can ensure that the image processing program can later assemble the photos more easily. This is where the panorama function of the camera can be very helpful. It ensures that there are always enough overlapping image sections to further simplify the composition later on.

In order to avoid severe distortion on the panorama images, the focal lengths should be as short as possible. Before you start taking pictures, you should set the focal length manually. To do this, focus on the point that is to be sharply displayed in the panorama later. Equally important is the correct setting of the aperture. High aperture values later ensure a sharp image over large image areas. But if you use a lower f-number, the background in the final image is mostly blurred, but the focus can be directed to the main subject of the photo.

A very important aspect in the preparation of panorama photography is the correct setting of the exposure time. Especially when the lighting conditions are not optimal or individual image areas appear particularly bright or dark, the automatic exposure on the camera should be switched off. It is better to expose each individual photo of the panorama manually, taking care that the exposure time does not deviate too far from the average value of all partial images.

Panorama vineyard in sub-optimal lighting conditions

Under poor lighting conditions, many areas of the image appear too dark.
Source: René Gropp

Combining individual images

Once the individual images are ready, they can be combined to form a panorama using one of a variety of image processing programs. Like many other programs, Adobe Photoshop has a Photomerge function that largely automates the assembly process.

First, open the individual images in the image processing program of your choice. If, after a white balance, you notice that the colour temperatures are different, you may want to adjust them. The easiest way to do this is to use the raw data in RAW format, for example. Then let the program do the work and create the panorama.

Once Photoshop has done its work, the resulting panorama usually looks unshaped. Cut it to the desired size with the Crop tool and save it. Then adjust overexposed areas and adjust other colour settings, for example to add more depth or contrast to your image.

Using automatic programs

Many modern cameras, especially small compact cameras and smartphones, already have integrated panorama functions with which you can easily create a good panorama photo. If you find working with the partial images too time-consuming or you have little experience with professional image editing programs, this is the easiest alternative.

Make sure, however, that you do not turn the camera around itself, but always around the camera axis. For this you can use a tripod as well as other tools. For example, place your camera on a wall or a small ledge and then turn it around. This will give you better results and avoid distortion.

Moving objects in the panorama

It is generally difficult to capture moving objects in panoramic images. However, most high-quality image processing programs are able to filter out such objects. The basis for this is that you have taken so many individual images that each area has been photographed uncovered at least once. Assuming the necessary computing power of your computer, even busy squares or busy streets can be displayed completely free of moving objects.

Panorama with people

Different poses in one image – Moving objects in panorama photography
Source: Gundel Woite

But you can also create fun effects when you display people or animals in the panorama. One of the most popular subjects is a picture of a person in different poses in one panorama photo. Let the person change position after each individual photo and wait until you shoot the next photo.

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