Panorama & Letterbox Competition...

Please note.  This competition is not going to take place this season.

The Previous Season Competition Entries are here...

Notes on Taking and Stiching Panoramas

The following notes may seem a lot to take in, but once you've understood them they're faster to carry out than to read. Print a copy out and stick it in your camera bag.

  • Panoramas can be taken handheld, but as it's important to stay level throughout the shoot, a tripod is best
  • Most tripods have spirit levels, if yours doesn't, either buy a small spirit level or turn on the cameras grid overlay (if it has one)
  • Position the camera to compose the image, zoom in out, remember the rule of thirds etc, then scan left to right to make sure important parts of your subject don't get too close to the edge of the frame.
    • During stiching areas close to the edge need to be cropped out
    • The more images you take the closer you can crop go to the edge of the stiched image
  • Put your camera on manual exposure and manual focus
    • If you leave the camera on an auto program then the camera will adjust the exposure on every shot, this will make stiching so difficult it's not worth bothering with!
    • Turn off auto ISO, if you have it enabled, for the same reason
    • I like to expose for the brighter part of the scene. If you expose for the darker area you'll probably get burnt out highlights.
    • Once focused on the scene, turn off auto focusing; otherwise an object closer to the camera in one shot may become the focus point leaving your distant subject out of focus
  • Take your shots
    • Take more than you think you need. Each shot should overlap the previous by at least a third
    • As you take each shot, look for a landmark a third of the way in from the edge as a reference point for the next shot
    • Shoot from left to right. You can shoot the other way of course but it makes loading the images into the software easier
    • Consider bracketing the shots if you want to go the whole way and do a HDR. Big image sizes I'd imagine!
    • If you're on a tripod and the light is low, consider using the camera's exposure delay mode, or use a remote release
  • Nodal point (no parallax point). This is only really important if you're using short lenses, or have subjects close to the camera
    • Basically, if you don't rotate the camera around the plane of the sensor then items close to the camera will cause parrallax problems when stiching
    • This isn't much of a problem if the forground is grass, but if it's something like a kerb or pavement the edges wont line up. This can sometimes be overcome with a little cloning
  • Once you get the photos home, load them into your software of choice
    • Recent versions of Photoshop Elements (at least down to version 7) have a Photomerge option
      • Go to File / New / Photomerge Panorama
      • It's quite simple to use but there are lots of videos on line if you do need help. Search for 'photomerge panorama in photoshop elements' on www.youtube.com or click here for an example of one I found that's quite clear.
    • Photoshop has the facility as well of course and there is dedicated panorama software available. Many programs are free. Just Google 'free panorama software'
  • After using the panorama software have a look around zoomed in for errors. Usually a little, cloning or cut and paste is required to get things just right.
  • Crop the image, save and then resize for the competition, adding a border if you think that will help.
  • And finally. Making panoramas can be very taxing on your computer, especially if you're using eight or nine full resolution 24 MP images. Prepare for long waits and the occasional PC crash. There are ways to overcome the problem if your PC isn't up to it.
    • Resize your images before opening them in the photomerge software.
    • Work in JPG's not TIFF's
    • Consider cutting the bit depth of the images down.