How to Take Panoramic Photos in 6 Easy Steps

Panoramic photos in photography are fun and easy to make, and they look really cool when they are printed large. They are also great for using as Facebook cover images.

Panoramic Photo of the Rolling Hills

Several images stitched together

Here is how to take and make a panoramic photo in 6 easy steps:

1. Panorama Mode

If your camera has a panorama mode or you are using an iPhone, which has one built in, use that mode. It will automatically do the work for you and give you guides on how to take each photo for the best effect. Most cameras require you to digitally stitch several photos together using specialized software, but if your camera or phone can do it without special software, all the better.

2. Overlap your images

Because the images need to be stitched together, it’s important that they overlap at the edges. I think a good rule of thumb is to overlap each frame by 1/3. Depending on how wide of a lens you are using and how close to your subject you are, there could be some weird perspective shifts every time you move the camera. In that case, you may want to have more overlap to compensate once you do the stitching. The software needs a frame a reference to stitch images together, so the more information you give, the easier it will be to merge all the images together.

Panoramic Photo of the Beach

Overlapping allows you to hide the seams

3. Keep your camera level

If you are doing a horizontal panorama, which is the most common way of doing it, you will want to keep each frame level. Match up the horizon with one of your autofocus points so that the horizontal lines aren’t different from frame to frame. Use a tripod if you can, just to make sure that you are moving the camera in a straight and level line.

4. Use manual modes

In anything other than manual mode, there’s a chance that your exposure will change as you are moving the camera. You want the exposure locked so that the colors and brightness are the same from frame to frame. While you’re at it, set the color balance correctly and change the focus to manual as well. This way, nothing will change as you move the camera. Your stitching software will thank you.

5. Take static images

If at all possible, take photos of things that are not moving. If there are people walking around in your photo, they may appear in several places in the photos, which looks weird. Or if they are at the edge of two frames and have moved, it may be difficult to stitch the photos together because the images don’t match up correctly. Try to wait for a few moments when nothing is moving to get the most effective panoramic image.

6. Stitching software

Once you have your images, you need to somehow stitch them together. Many cameras come with software that does a good job of photo stitching. Many people use Photoshop, and that is a pretty powerful way of getting your images just the way you want. The quickest way is to use “File -> Automate -> Photomerge” in the menu. Choose the photos you want to stitch and let your computer do the work. Experiment with the different check boxes to see what works best for your image. If you are doing more than 10 images, you may want to stitch one-half together and save that file, stitch the other half and save that file, and then stitch the two saved files together. I’ve found that Photoshop is more accurate that way. If the image is not perfect, you can use the other tools in Photoshop, like the Clone Stamp, to perfect the seams of the image.

You might also enjoy our iPhone photography tips.

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What tools do you guys use for panoramic photos?

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