I’m noticing how more manufacturers are incorporating panorama stitching in their cameras. It’s a nice feature that enables you to snap a series of pictures as you make a continuous sweep of your camera across a wide scene. After capture, the camera’s internal software automatically arranges the photos in order, detects overlapping details and blends them together in one seamless image. It’s handy for situations where your camera’s wide-angle lens can’t take in everything you want in a scene. Most major camera manufacturers offer panorama stitching on select models, although some limit your capture to only three photos. Others that stitch more than three images may reduce image sizes to keep the file small enough to process the panorama in the camera. It’s always best to research individual camera models to determine specifics of their panorama stitching applications. Two sites that I recommend for camera research are www.dpreview.com and www.steves-digicams.com.
Another way to create panoramas is with computer software. Dozens of options are available, and two sites that list some can be found at www.360rage.com/panorama-software.php and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_photo_stitching_applications.
At the Journal-World I use the PhotoMerge application in Adobe Photoshop CS4.
Here are some tips on taking panorama photographs:
Use a wide-angle lens, the wider the better, and turn your camera vertically for your picture taking. To produce the best horizontal panoramas, you want to capture as much vertical area as you can to include more of the subject.
I recommend setting your focus and exposure manually. If you use auto for these controls, variations in exposure and focus may be noticeable between frames. I try to locate an important subject in the scene and pre-set my focus and exposure to that spot. In fact, it’s a good idea to have some subject be the focal point of your image, often something closer to you. Having a dominant subject in your panorama adds interest and helps keep a wide scene from looking too flat and one-dimensional.
Working from either left to right or right to left, shoot a first frame to establish the start of the panorama. Keeping the camera raised and in position, move the camera across your intended subject for each additional shot, overlapping each frame by at least 25 percent. Overlapping is critical because this provides the software with similar visual reference points that will assist in aligning the finished panorama.
You can do this technique without a tripod if you feel you can keep the camera steady and fairly level through all your photos. A tripod makes it easier to stay level and rotate through your shots.
For panoramas on the run, the point-and-shoot models that have stitching programs are pretty competent and of good quality. If you like to be more precise and create larger, elaborate and more controlled panoramas, I recommend going the software route.