Improve your panoramas!

Peter Fenech

Know the basics and succeed in panoramic photography

Some scenes just can’t be captured effectively in a single frame. It can be frustrating when you are unable to find the perfect focal length to make the most of the landscape in front of you. Sometimes neither a wide nor telephoto setting is appropriate – too wide and detail is lost in the frame, whereas too cropped and important picture elements are excluded from the frame altogether. In these instances, a very wide aspect is most suitable and choosing a standard panoramic format, such as 6×17 or 6×12 will ensure a well proportioned composition.

Step 1

To ensure precise camera movement, a tripod is recommended, however it’s important that the legs are perfectly level. This will ensure that when the setup is pivoted around the central column, the sensor and lens track the horizon, creating aligned segments.

Improve your panoramas!












Step 2

While shooting landscape format segments will cover the scene in fewer images, turning the camera into portrait orientation will produce less distortion around the areas where each segment joins to the next. This will make the stitching stage easier and provide more software cropping freedom.

Improve your panoramas!












Step 3

Set an aperture of f/8-16 and take an exposure reading, metering from the highlights, to prevent clipping. Once you have found the correct shutter speed, turn to Manual mode and enter the measured settings. This prevents the exposure changing between segments, creating visible joins.

Improve your panoramas!












Step 4 

Pre-focus your lens, using depth-of-field preview or a test shot to check background sharpness. Then turn off autofocus, to prevent the lens re-focussing each time the shutter button is pressed. If focus varies between shots, software will be unable to seamlessly stitch your panorama segments.

Improve your panoramas!












Step 5

Take your first shot, pivot the camera and shoot the second, overlapping the segments by around 20-30%. This aids accurate stitching later. Add a marker, such as a finger, to a shot before and after your series to mark the start and end, for archiving reference.

Improve your panoramas!












Step 6 

When back at the computer, locate your images, process the RAW files, using synchronised settings and Go File > Automate > Photomerge in Photoshop. Select your files, choose Auto Layout and click Ok to begin the stitching process. Crop out peripheral white space or use Content Aware Fill.

Improve your panoramas!











Quick tip

Try fully editing each segment prior to merging, as applying heavy processing to a stitched panorama can be RAM intensive. In Photoshop’s preferences, allocate more memory to the application (Photoshop > Preferences > File handling) if you do need to edit a very large file, such as when retouching along seams between segments for example, or filling extra space around the canvas, post-stitching.


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