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Tuesday, September 17, 2013


How to create large-scale panoramic images with intricate detail using your everyday DSLR

This Article Features Photo Zoom
For multi-row panoramic images, you'll want to practice panning left to right, and tilting up and down. This way, when you reach the right side of your first row you know exactly the degree marker to return to on the left, as well as how many degrees down you need to pan. Then, simply repeat.

You should move methodically and accurately through each frame. Depending on the amount of available light, clouds moving in the sky or shifting light, you may need to move quickly. Too much exposure change between images and rows will result in a failed stitch later. I highly encourage taking several sets of images. Just one single incorrect frame is like a missing piece to a jigsaw puzzle. A final image won't be possible.

Stitching: Merging Your Single Images Into A Panorama
Now that you have some images, it's time to download them to your computer and stitch them together to create one very large single photograph. There are many software programs for stitching photos together; my personal preference is Photoshop.

Gear: Camera, Tripod And Nodal Systems
There's no shortage of great equipment options out there, and for a variety of budgets. Here's what you're going to need to shoot professional-quality panoramic photographs:
> A DSLR camera. Full frame, high quality and as many megapixels as you can get.
> A fixed lens. I typically use 50mm, 85mm, 100mm or 300mm lenses. I've even used a 500mm lens! (You can use a zoom lens; however, eliminating parallax can be more difficult that way.)
> A sturdy tripod. I recommend a ballhead for ease-of-use and leveling accuracy, which is important.
> A panning system. Really Right Stuff makes a single- and multi-row pano kit, which is what I use for all of my panoramic creations. It's well made and top of the line, in my opinion. You can also automate the process with a GigaPan setup (see sidebar).
> Shutter-release cord. Optional, but helpful in capturing sharper images.
Global Adjustment Of RAW Images. The first step is to load all of the RAW files into the Camera Raw editor. By loading them at the same time, and selecting them all once loaded, you're able to make global edits. In other words, if you make an adjustment to any slider, say, contrast or white balance, this change will occur identically to all of the images of your panorama. This is a critically important point because, in order to have a successful stitch, each image has to be as similar to the next as possible. Any shift in exposure or other adjustments can cause the software to fail to pattern match, thus the stitch won't complete.

The Stitch. In Photoshop, choose File > Automate > Photomerge. From the dialog box, select the group of images, then select the Layout as Auto and Blend Images Together. If I later discover that I didn't do a great job of setting the nodal point during the shoot, I'll check Geometric Distortion Correction to help assist with the parallax issues. It's not perfect, but can often wrangle a difficult stitch into something manageable.

The Vignette Removal option is typically only selected when shooting wide-angle where, for example, the gradient blue of the sky can affect the stitch between two frames. Since I tend to shoot 50mm or higher, this isn't an option I use in my personal stitching process.

The Wait. Once you click OK, Photoshop starts the process of loading each frame of your soon-to-be panorama, each into its own separate layer. Once this step is completed, Photoshop will rearrange and adjust each frame, using powerful algorithms to match edges and overlap each photo. Then, once each image is in position, the software will create layer masks for a seamless final result.

This may be a good time to grab a cold beverage or take the dog for a walk. Depending on the number of images in your pano, this processing can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours.


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