Thursday, January 1, 2015

Tips For Shooting Panoramas

Lagoon at
Sandy Beach, Acadia. Five images wide

When you have a scene you would like to photograph that is wider than you can capture in one image it may be an opportunity to do a panorama. Once you start shooting pano’s you may begin seeing opportunities to shoot them that would have passed right by you. The image above is of Sandy Beach in Acadia National Park. On this particular day it was raining and I have my camera covered with a rain sleeve. I am standing with the ocean to my back.

Lagoon & Glacier, Iceland. 7 images wide

Tip Number One: Overshoot the Scene
The first thing to determine is what part of the scene do you want to include. You need to decide where the image will start and stop on the left and the right. Along with this you want to decide where the upper and lower limits will be. Once decided, overshoot. In other words, start farther to the left and end farther to the right than the area that will be in your final image. Likewise, capture more above and below.  After you stitch the images together the overshooting will allow you to crop the image to he size you envisioned.

Tip Number Two:  Level the Tripod First, Then The Camera
Now that you know what you want your final image to look like, position your camera to capture the perspective you want and then level the tripod. Most tripods have a bulb level on them and you can use that to adjust. If you don’t have a level on the tripod, use a level on your center post. If you get your center post level, both right and left and front and back, then it will be straight up and down and the tripod will be level.

Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, Iceland. 5 images

Next, level the camera. If you don’t have a built in level, get one of those little plastic levels that fits into you hot shoe. They cost about $35 and are worth it because you can use it to level your tripod center post as well as your camera.

Tip Number Three:  Take Off Your Polarizing Filter
Now, consider taking off your polarizing filter, especially if you are going to have blue sky in your image. The polarizer will often make the sky look blotchy and it is a bear to repair later – although it can be done.  You will save yourself a lot of trouble when shooting pano's with sky by leaving the polarizer off.

Grand Tetons From Signal Mountain, 7 images

Tip Number Four:  Meter For The Brightest Part Of The Scene
Now meter the scene for the lightest part. Switch your camera to Manual and set those meter readings. Make sure you have focused where you want your focus to be.  By metering for the brightest part you will avoid having blown out portions of your image.  If the scene has a really high dynamic range (real brights and real darks) you may want to bracket, but that is a who subject in itself.

Tip Number Five:  Shoot In Manual Mode
By shooting in manual, the camera settings do not change with each capture.  If you are in aperture priority, for instance, the camera will reset the metering with each shot and your images will not go together well.  Shoot panoramas in manual and you avoid those in-camera variations.

Ox Bow, Jackson Hole

Tip Number Six: Shoot From Left To Right & Overlap
If you shoot from left to right every time you will never get confused about which image is next, or where your panorama begins and ends.  Be sure to overlap your images when you are shooting.  I like  doing pano's in live view as I use the grid on the screen to reposition the camera with each shot.  The grid makes it easy to find the 1/3 overlap point for the next shot.  Shooting in live view is not essential and some prefer not to, but overlapping is essential.

Stitching the images together is fairly straightforward.  I use Photomerge in Photoshop CS6.  I always check the "cylindrical" mode as it seems to do the best job of putting the images together.

If you liked this blog you might also like How To Get The Sharpest Images. Just click here.

If you would like to see more of Bob's work you may view it at bobhartphotography.

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