Panorama Tutorial

Combining a set of overlapping pictures into a single panoramic image is a valuable tool for landscape photographers. Simple panoramas can be made with any camera (film or digital). A set of overlapping pictures can later be assembled into a single panoramic image using special image stitching software.

1. Photographing the scene.

Often an awe-inspiring landscape cannot fit onto a single frame in our cameras. After stepping back as far as we can and zooming out our camera lens often we still can't capture the big landscape in a single photo. Many of our low to medium-priced cameras do not have interchangable lenses, so we can't switch to a wide-angle lens when we need one.

A series of pictures with 33% overlaps are good for assembly into a panorama. On this trip I produced some of the panoramic image series with my camera rotating on a tripod, but some equally good panoramas were produced from photos taken with a hand-held camera. If lighting and colors are fairly uniform across the image series, then pictures taken on automatic exposure are typically adequate for production of panoramas. Use of a leveling bubble on the tripod might add some precision, but this is not necessary.

2. Stitching pictures together.

Adobe Photoshop Elements software was used for stitching of pictures to make panoramic images. If necessary, the brightness of the pictures in a series should first be normalized (Enhance menu - Adjust Brightness/Contrast - Levels). Then the images can be stitched together (File menu - Create Photomerge).

3. Editing the panoramic image.

Cropping will be necessary to clean up rough edges if the original photo series was not perfectly aligned. Additional image editing may be needed to obscure the seams where pictures were joined together. Seams are often most pronounced at the top edge of the sky portion in a landscape; these can often be resolved sufficiently just by cropping off that uppermost portion. If troublesome seams are not easily resolved with photo editing tools, then sometimes it is helpful to readjust the brightness of the original pictures and rebuild the panorama. Often the land part of the landscape is fine, but seams are visible in the sky portion. If these seams cannot easily be removed from the sky, then sometimes it is easiest to pick a blue-colored pixel and make a synthetic sky composed entirely of that color.

4. Finished panorama.

Since I have learned how to make panoramas I have found opportunities to use them wherever I have gone. In many places the single photo is good, but the bigger panoramic image is so much better at capturing the scene and evoking the feeling of being there.