A Short Course Book
Using Your Digital Camera
A Guide To Great Photographs

Shooting Panoramas

The three images above have been stitched together into a single panorama (right).
Click to see how dramatic 360-degree panoramas can be.
Although panoramic photographs have been taken in sections and pasted together for years, it was the development of digital photography and computer software that made seamless panoramas possible. To create a seamless panorama, you begin by capturing a series of overlapping images that you then combine seamlessly with a stitching program, one of which is often included with your camera or built into your photo-editing program.

There are a few important guidelines to follow for good panoramic images.
  • Zooming the lens to a wide angle requires fewer pictures to cover the same view but makes things appear smaller and more distant.
  • When photographing a horizontal or vertical sequence, stand in the same position and rotate the camera.
  • When photographing a document, center the camera over each section and keep it the same distance from the document for each shot.
  • Holding the camera vertically for horizontal panoramas gives you more height in the images but requires more images to cover the same horizontal area.
  • The camera should be as level as possible when you take the pictures. In a 360-degree pan, the first and last images must "connect" and overlap.
  • The images must overlap by 30-50% horizontally and not be out of vertical alignment by much more than 10%.
  • Avoid placing subjects that move in overlapping areas and don't combine nearby objects in the same scene as distant ones or they will be distorted.
  • Place a distinctive subject in each overlapping area to make it easy for the software to know how to combine the images.
The software you use to stitch images together can even out the lighting in a scene but it helps if you give it good images to work with. If your camera has an AE Lock feature, lock exposure for the entire series. Try to avoid extremes in lighting. These occur on bright sunny days when there are bright highlights and dark shadows. The problem is compounded because you may have to shoot into the sun. If you can pick your time, pick a day when it's cloudy bright—overcast but with slight shadows on the ground. If the sun is out, shoot at midday to keep the lighting even. If you have to shoot at other times, position the camera so direct sunlight is at your back, or if it has to be in front of you, try to block it with a tree or building. When shooting indoor panoramas, avoid shots of windows with direct sun shining through.

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