Photographic Tips: How to take that perfect panoramic image

A series for aspiring photographers

To improve your photography I thought that I would cover a number of photographic techniques as a set of photographic tips in the blog.

Photographic tips: The panoramic image

How do you take the perfect panoramic shot? The technique is fairly simple and the majority of people will be able to succeed with most cameras that are on the market today, including their smartphone. In fact a lot of cameras will do a lot of the work for you.

The description I will give assumes that you can control the functions on the camera and are able to choose a manual mode. First job of course is to select a location where a panoramic shot would work. Most of mine tend to be where there is a vast view but the technique would also work in a sports stadium or at a gig. Quite often I will include a person in the image to give a sense of scale.

The set up on location

Once on location you will need to choose a suitable aperture on your camera in AV (Aperture Priority mode) to get the depth of field that you require. For a landscape f11 would probably be suitable. Then you should pan around the extent of your panorama, mentally noting what the camera suggests as a suitable shutter speed, bearing in mind the focal length of the lens you are using. A good rule of thumb here is that you should have a shutter speed at least as fast as 1/focal length to avoid camera shake. You may need to increase your ISO value if this is not achieved.

Image set for panoramic stitch

Details on how to set up the shot

Once you have done this, you should approximate an average shutter speed that covers the majority of the view. Any small discrepancies can usually be adjusted in post-production. So now you can switch your camera to manual mode and dial in the settings that you have just calculated. This is important because if the camera is left on Auto it will use differing exposure values or even apertures when the images are taken and this will give a very strange looking result.

The next important step is to make sure that you take the images in portrait format, as this will allow plenty of room at the top and bottom of the frame which may need to be cropped off later if the edges are not even. The options are either to use your camera on a tripod or else if confident, hand hold. All the panoramas shown here were hand held. Now you can begin to take your images and you should allow an overlap of around 30% to help the software to make the stitch later, obviously trying to keep the camera relatively level during the process. Another tip here is that I usually take an image of the ground before and after the sequence so that when I review the images later I know where the panorama starts and ends.

Photographic Tips by Andrew Boschier
Andrew Boschier’s photographic tips to get the best out of your photography

Post production technique

When you are back at your computer you can review the images and use your preferred software to stitch the images together. My favoured option is to use Adobe Lightroom as there is a built in function for this. First highlight the images required, then right click and choose photo merge, then panorama. The software will automatically stitch the images together and show the result. There may be some choice on how Lightroom will attempt the merge and it will usually highlight the best method.

Mostly Lightroom will perform a perfect merge, however sometimes there will be visible gaps at the top or bottom of the image. You can either crop these off or else open the image in Photoshop and use the amazing ‘content aware’ fill to plug the gaps. Once happy, return to Lightroom and make your final adjustments to the image.

For other photographic tips please see other articles in the series.

If you are intersted in photographic tuition please check my tuition page for more details

© Andrew Boschier Photography 2020

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