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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Give Your Photos A Boost

Sometimes a good photograph just needs a little shot of art sauce to turn it into a great one

This Article Features Photo Zoom
The world doesn't always fit neatly into the aspect ratio of a DSLR image sensor. There are purists who "never crop...ever," which is fine in the same way that writing a poem in a particular type of verse is fine. It's good to give yourself a challenge and stick with it. But that's all a no-crop policy should be—a self-imposed compositional challenge. If you're up for exploring different aspect ratios to find a shape that fits the subject, think about panoramas.

A panorama should have a good compositional reason for being presented in that unique format. Made by George Lepp, this is one of the best examples of a scene that's positively made for the panorama. There are elements of interest across the frame while the featureless sky at the top and the featureless water at the bottom have been eliminated.
The panorama format is a prime example where the subject and composition need to align properly with the unique aspect ratio. A very wide panorama where half of the frame has nothing of visual interest probably would be better in a more normal frame. If you want to study some outstanding panorama compositions, look at George Lepp's work. Lepp is a true innovator with panorama compositions, especially with wildlife.

To make your best panoramas, plan ahead and shoot a number of frames that can be stitched into a single image. In the vein of adding a dash of art sauce to a photograph you've already taken to make it special, you also can simply crop an existing image to the panorama format. If you're doing the latter, you'll be discarding a significant amount of the image and you'll ultimately be limited in how large you can print the finished panorama.

If you're in the field and you can see that a panorama will give you the best composition, you have a couple of options. First, you can do your best to shoot a number of handheld images moving across the scene. Be sure to overlap each image and lock the exposure and the focus so that all of the shots are consistent. The handheld method isn't ideal, but if you're careful and you keep pretty steady, you can stitch together a great panorama. The other option is to lock down the camera on a sturdy tripod with a three-way head or a video head (or, better yet, a dedicated panorama head that swings the camera around the lens' nodal point) and shoot your frames. As before, be sure to overlap the images and lock the exposure and focus.

Sony's unique Sweep Panorama technology lets you create a panorama by physically moving the camera while it shoots a number of exposures and automatically stitches them into a panorama. It works surprisingly well. If you have a camera that has this capability, give it a try.


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