Everyone knows what a panoramic photograph is. They have become so popular that every major phone manufacturer has embedded the ability to shoot and stitch panoramas into their cell phones. People love to take panoramic photos because of the ability to capture larger than life scenes such as: mountain viewpoints, lengthy canyons and sprawling ocean vistas.
In addition to being a fun way to capture grand scenery, panoramic photography is a tool that professional photographers often employee in crafting bodies of work. The general idea behind panoramic photography is; The photographer takes multiple photos of the same scene (3-7) that are each offset by approximately 20 degrees, which are then stitched together to form one large image.
Panoramas are HUGE files! Think about it, when you stitch together 4 images from a professional DSLR that are approximately 30 million pixels each, you will end up with an image that reaches 120 million pixels. The level of detail that can be achieved through an image that has that many pixels is incredible. Of course, if your computer can handle it, a panorama can take your photography from good to great with very little effort.
Obviously, there is not a wrong way to make a photo, but I want to bring up the fact that I always use panoramas in my personal work. I bring this up because I think these super high-quality photos make perfect candidates for background images in composites, which is how I use them.
When I conduct any kind of photo shoot, I always take photos for a back plate when the lighting is perfect. I then mold my subjects to the scene and light them with artificial lighting.
You can tell the difference when looking at a photo that has been made using panoramic backgrounds because the images has a larger than life vibe to it, which is almost too subtle to identify. These simple details are what separate well practiced photographers from seasoned experts.
For best results, try stitching you panos manually. You can do this by importing all of your photos into Photoshop as separate layers. Remember to place the layers in order from left to right (or right to left). The next step is to expand your canvas to accommodate all of your photos. You can do this precisely by calculating the final width of you photo with simple addition or you can eye it as you go. Either way you choose to increase the size of your canvas you will still perform the alignment the same way. Take each photo and move them into a position that makes the most sense to the eye, then you simply apply a layer mask to hide the seams.
Try these tips to help stitch your panos together:
- CMD/CNTRL + T to transform each layer in an effort to match perspectives
- Use clipping masks to adjust colors and/or brightness of the individual layers
- Reduce the opacity of any layer you want to try to align by 50%
Luckily, shooting for a panorama is much simpler than stitching them together!
Here is what you will need:
- Camera (any kind will do)
- A sturdy tripod (these can be expensive but you should not skimp here)
- An L-bracket for your camera to allow you to shoot both horizontally and vertically
- A level to ensure that your camera pans on a constant plane
Once you have your gear, you just need to setup your tripod and camera to capture a scene of your choosing. To do this you need to focus to infinity and put your camera into manual mode. By shooting in manual, you will ensure that your photos remain properly exposed throughout the pano process.
The next step in your pano adventure is framing up your first shot. Frame one should either be the photo that begins the photos on either the left or right. From there you just take 3-7 photos as you pan the camera incrementally.
*For best results, I recommend shooting each photo vertically. This method allows you to capture the most ground and sky with each frame.
In the end, I just wanted to provide a new way to capture your scenes. I want you to expand your horizons and create more bodies of art that give a good name to the creative industry!