Creating Panoramas

Taking the Wide View: Panoramas

Family Travel provides the following travel photography tutorial for photography and family traveler enthusiasts.


Preparing, Shooting, Merging and Printing Panorama Photos

If you enjoy taking photos of the places you visit, chances are very good that at some point you will want to shoot a panorama. When you visit a place like the Grand Canyon or Bryce Point National Park, you will want to capture the overpowering expanse of scenery. The amazing scale of what you're viewing defies capture on a standard photograph. Your eyes see things on a fairly wide angle field of view, but still you have to turn your head to take it all in. Your camera is far more limited than your eyes and so, it is completely inadequate to the task of documenting with a single photograph; the photograph will never be able to represent the grandeur of a large scene.

Some camera manufacturers tried to address this situation with panoramic cameras. The problem with them was that people normally don’t shoot panoramas, so the big selling point for this camera was something that wasn’t often used. The cameras also tended to be fairly limited in their capabilities.

Still, there are times when your photo subject screams for a panorama. For example, imagine you’re standing by the Grand Canyon. It is massively wide in your field of view, but the actual height of the scene is pretty small. So, when you take a picture of it, the actual "cool" part of the image - the canyon - is a thin strip that spans the width of your photo, and you have lots of empty sky above it and lots of uninteresting ground below it.

This is why pictures of grand scenes never seem to capture the scale and majesty that you remember seeing when you were at the location. We see in a wide-angle view of the world. Our camera doesn't shoot that way.

The solution? The panorama.

You can accomplish a panorama in a few different ways. The easiest approach is simply to crop the original photo to remove the excess sky and ground, keeping the interesting canyon area in the middle. This may be all you have to do depending on how you plan to use the image. If you're going to print your image, you will find that you are limited as to how much you can enlarge it. When you crop the image you reduce the number of pixels, and enlarging an image with fewer pixels can result in a lower quality print.

This tutorial is going to approach the panorama a different way. What if you were able to create a panorama that was huge; I mean, a panorama that was four times, six times, even more, the size of your regular photo? You could print that image virtually as large as you want and you would only include the interesting portion of the image without all the extraneous sky and ground?

The way to accomplish this is to shoot a series of photos to capture the whole scene. Rotating from left to right, you shoot, rotate a little, shoot again, rotate a little, and on and on until you have photographed the entire scene. Then, when you get the files on your computer you can merge, or "stitch" them together into one huge panorama.

Do you want to see how these panoramas look when you're done? Every banner picture on each page of the panorama tutorials pages - including this page - was taken using the method I'm teaching here. You can get some GREAT panorama shots using this method.

This tutorial will teach you how to shoot, create, print and display panoramas. I will categorize this tutorial's difficulty as intermediate because it requires you to be able to shoot in manual mode and work with your pictures on the computer. It's not difficult to do, but it does require that you can shoot manually.

Incidentally, later in the tutorial I provide some sample pictures to work with you can test out the stitching process yourself. Go ahead and give it a shot - it's fun!

Here are steps to creating panoramas:

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