Panoramic Images with Photomerge

There are a lot of resources out there on how to shoot panoramic images.  Bunches.  And I’m not going to try and match them in either content or depth.  Instead – I just want to share some panoramic techniques that I use when I’m traveling light and fast – no tripod or ball head bracket in the bag.  Of course, I think Panosaurus and Nodal Ninja are cool – but I don’t have either – nor do I typically travel with a tripod.

So, what’s a photog to do when you just want to get the shot – but it’s simply just too big?  Keep shooting.

A few tips:

  1. Shoot your camera vertically  – this will help you capture more information – making it easier for you to crop later.
  2. Shoot with a wide lens if possible.  I like my 24mm – but I’ve shot ‘em with a 70-200mm.  The best lens is the lens in your hands.
  3. I keep AWB on – but I try to remember to set the camera to manual – and expose for the “middle” of the scene – not the brightest or darkest part of the image.  If you forget and shoot the whole scene in aperture priority – not all is lost – but it may take a bit more futzing on the back end to create a natural looking image.  If your depth of field is changing from image to image – that could be a bit more difficult.
  4. Overlap your images by 30-50%.  Hey – you’re shooting digital – it’s OK to toss a few out.  Some folks suggest twisting from the hip if you’re shooting handheld.  Probably good advice.  Honestly, I have no idea where I twist – I’m probably doing it all wrong.
  5. Adobe’s Photomerge – it used to only be in the top end Photoshop packages – but for those who don’t use CSx – it’s been in the Elements package since 6 (and in case you’re curious, I use Elements 6 for panoramas).  I tend to use “Reposition Only” – as this typically gives more image to adjust and crop later.

And then it’s just tweak and publish! 

This image was with a 24mm lens in Joshua Tree National Park – and I have no idea how many images were used in the pic.

panorama for blog - low res-2 The following image, I know, was just posted a few days ago – but this is a recent example of a panoramic image with the 70-200mm.  If I remember correctly, this is a composite of seven or so images.

50 Million Lost - low res-3

And sometimes when taking these images handheld – you’re going to make mistakes.  This image was taken at our campsite at the base of Mt. Thielsen last August.  If I crop this image to eliminate the uneven edges – I’d take about 500 ft off the mountain.  Is my intent here to sell the image?  No.  I just want to remember a stunning camp site.  Counting the jagged edges – there’s probably 10 or so images assembled here.

panorama for blog - low res-3 

And the following image from The Svens in concert is a three shot panorama – hand held with a 50mm lens . 

the Svens - low res-3

Bottom line – keep shooting.  Even 5 years ago it wasn’t this easy to be this sloppy and still have the possibility of getting a good image off the conveyer belt.  Maybe this post should be re-titled “Confessions of a Lazy Photographer”.

On the other hand – if you have a “flat” shot – one with no pop but you know it has potential– and you just really want to use it somewhere – here’s a technique to make it look like a panorama.

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