Home >> Shooting Panoramas
Shooting Panoramas
Shooting Panoramas

We all love to see awesome panoramas as they provide a sweep that our eyes cannot take in all at once. Here are some tips to address some of the steps photographers should take to make a near perfect panoramic photo out of multiple exposures. Often just the grand scale and sweep of the pano will amaze the audience in its coolness alone … but if you want to create an image that goes the extra step, think of a few things:

Lighting

Lighting is critical here, no less critical than if this were to be a single frame. It’s easy to get caught up with the impressive nature of that wide expanse of the panoramic, but if you are going to go to that effort, make the extra effort to shoot in the best light possible. You’ll find the best outdoor light occurs 30 minutes before and after sunset and 30 minutes before and after sunrise.

Manual Exposure

Shooting on Program or on an automatic mode may impact the images in a negative way as the exposure on each frame may be slightly different. If you’re not comfortable with shooting manual exposure, try this: with the camera in an automatic mode, point it at the brightest area of the image. Press the shutter button down, and note the exposure that is shown in the viewfinder. Put the camera in Manual mode, and using the exposure that you had noted from the previous step, input that shutter speed and aperture setting. By using this on all the images in the panoramic, this forces the exposure to be consistent in each image.

Manual White Balance

Once again you want to change the auto feature as you may have similar issues to auto exposure: your white balance sensor may read a slight color temperature difference in some of the frames you are shooting for your panoramic, then you’ll have an issue of inconsistency in color. I’ve found in many cases that the “Cloudy” setting can give just a touch of additional warmth to your images, almost like using an 81A filter with film. You absolutely should make some images in “Cloudy”, or 6000K as well as in “Sun”, 5300K, setting to see which works best for your personal taste.

Glacial Ice Wall
Turn the Camera Vertical

By doing this simple trick you increase the area with which you have to work at the top and bottom of the frame. This will give you more “fudge” room to make up for those imperfect sweeps that may occur.

Level Your Head

I’m not being metaphysical here, a very level tripod and tripod head will provide images that are on the level, therefore not giving you that row of images that slowly-or rapidly-descend or ascend throughout the range of images, creating an uphill or downhill slope. If you don’t have a tripod, try this trick: With the camera turned to capture vertical images, use the focus points in the viewfinder for your reference points. Often, those very small squares or crosses on your focusing screen will be aligned in three rows, By using the top or bottom row, you can use those as a marker to place the horizon in each frame. This may lessen the tendency for the image to have that uphill swing.

Reindeer Flats
Pivot the Camera on the “Nodal Point”

You can buy a Nodal Rail that will allow you to pivot the camera on that critical axis, essentially above in line with the diaphragm of the lens. If you don’t have a Nodal Rail, you should try to make rotation of the camera as precise and constant as possible. This will make the merging of the images that much better, reducing or eliminating the imperfect blending of images.

Overlap

When making your frames, be sure and overlap the consecutive frames by about 20-30 percent, so you have room for the software to find the commonality of each frame, and to allow for any user error in the capture of the frames.

Panorama Make Your Start

I always shoot two black frames at the start and finish of each group of images, holding my hand over the lens, so it marks the beginning and end of each series. This simple trick, when editing my frames, allows me to see each series in a glance.

About Jay Dickman
Jay Dickman

As a Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist and a regular contributor to National Geographic Magazine and more than 15 Day in the Life book projects, Jay Dickman is one of the most traveled, most experienced, most celebrated photographers in the Olympus Visionary program and the living embodiment of Olympus’ capture-it-all spirit.

Dickman has captured a variety of subjects during his three-and-a-half-decade career. He has documented the civil war in El Salvador, six Super Bowls, the 40th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and the Summer Olympic Games. He has taken photographs for a who’s who of corporate clients including Nike, HP, Quaker and the NFL.

Learn more at jaydickman.net or follow @jaydickman on Twitter.


Want More Photography Tips? Perfect Digital Photography

Jay Dickman is the co-author of “Perfect Digital Photography.” Learn more about this book at perfectdigitalphotography.com.