Not So Serious About Panoramas

Reminder – you may click these photos from David Bennett for a closer look. Worth doing! ~J. Ronald Lee

panorama photo

Taking And Making Panoramas
There are various ways to take and make panoramic photographs. One way to make a panorama is to crop the frame after you have taken the shot. You can do that easily with most image-editing software.

If you shoot film, you can just mask off part of the negative in the enlarger.

Or you can take a panoramic photograph using one of the panoramic cameras that are available. These either have a very wide angle of view or a lens that rotates across the film plane or sensor as it takes the shot.

Stitching Images
Probably the most popular way nowadays to make a panorama digitally is to stitch together a series of shots using a stitching program. Canon make a free one you can download from the internet and so do Microsoft.

There are other programs – just google for stitching software.

Merge In Photoshop
Then of course there is Photoshop. Go to File > Automate > Automerge and choose the photographs from your hard drive that you want to stitch together.

Photoshop CS5 does a wonderful job of aligning the shots and blending the exposure of each shot to produce a seamless composite.

What Is A Panorama
The word ‘panorama’ means an unbroken view over such a large area that we have to move our heads in order to see it all. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a long, narrow, horizontal ‘letterbox’ shape.

Google for ‘vertical panoramas’ and you will see what I mean.

And the composite images you can make by merging images in Photoshop don’t have to be long, narrow shapes at all.

panorama 2

The Merge facility in Photoshop works with any shaped image you want. It simply depends on where you point your camera to take the succession of shots you are going to merge together.

Getting Serious About Composite Images
If you are serious about taking composite photographs, then you want to be using a tripod and a pano-head.

A pano-head fixes onto the tripod head and puts the nodal point or as it is sometimes called, the entrance pupil, of the camera lens over the swing point of the tripod. The effect is to avoid parallax distortion.

Parallax distortion is what you see when you hold your finger a few inches in front of your face and close one eye and then switch and close the other eye and your finger appears to jump sideways.

What a pano-head does is to put the point at which light enters the lens at exactly the same point wherever the camera is rotated or moved.

However, even without a pano-head, when we take panoramas of a distant scene in nature like the one above, we tend to forgive any inaccuracies in the way the scene is portrayed. After all, there is no โ€˜standardโ€™ shape to which nature must conform.

Rectangular-Shaped Composite Images
If you want to make rectangular-shaped composite image, then just raise the tripod and take another series of shots. Sometimes you might want to raise the tripod and pano-head and take a third row of shots and stitch all three rows together.

Not So Serious
But what if you don’t want to use a pano-head or don’t even want to use a tripod? In fact, my preferred way of working is to shoot handheld.

I don’t own a pano-head and I rarely take my tripod out of the house. I have used a pano-head, but I didn’t get on with it. By the time I had set everything up, taking the photographs had become a chore.

So instead, I just click away with the camera handheld, and let the results turn out however they turn out.

I just don’t worry about the parallax distortion.

panorama 3

As you can see from these two photographs of buildings (particularly the lower one), the parallax distortion is obvious when taking composites of subjects that are close to the camera, particularly if the camera is tilted upward or downwards when taking a row of shots.

If I were serious about panoramas, I would use a pano-head and a tripod. But for me, the only question I ask myself is whether I like the finished composite image.

And the advantage is that I can take these quirky panoramas anytime I want. All I need is a camera.

This is a guest post from David Bennett who, when he is not planning his next trip abroad, takes the photographs for the ecards and prints at Quillcards.


  1. alexbard says:

    I like the last photo)) It`s very funny.

    But, i think there could be more information on software part of panorama creation process. Photoshop isn`t a only way to merge photos to big picture. There is a good lightweight soft, that is free.

  2. Glad you like the image, Alex!

    I once had a little Canon A400 compact camera and used the software that I seem to recall was on the CD that was supplied with the camera.

    Apart from that I have only used Photoshop so I am unable to comment on other software options from first hand experience – which what counts, eh!

  3. Jane Cooper says:

    When i first looked at last photo i tought that this building is bended like that then i readed whole article… ;d
    It’s realy interesting what you write here, i think you could share with us your knowledge more often.

  4. I like panoramas but they have to be done right, and filters and specific lens’s can help with that. But like you said it is more popular to stitch.

    • Yes, I can see merit in that. If money were no object I would get myself a shift lens for photographing buildings, because a lens like that would correct verticals and it would be an easy lens to walk about with.

      For filters, were you referring to neutral density graduated filters?

  5. It’s a pity that we rarely see the panorame feature on a DSLRs. Even my old phone has the feature..

    • You mean the auto-stitching feature that helps you line up the shots?

      If so, the yes, my little Canon compact had that feature.

      It was pretty neat looking in the LCD and lining up the shots and seeing the way the correct position would kind of snap into place when the camera recognised features from the previous shot.

  6. I kind of like the distortion, though; it adds a little artistic flare to it. I’ve never really found a purpose for panoramic photos other then when I want to have a nice picture on a wall- which is usually nature. What are some of your favorite things to shoot from a panoramic angle that’s different?

    • Ava,
      I start to think of panoramas or composites whenever I see a scene that I cannot capture with one shot!

      One subject that has interested me for a while but which I haven’t explored is the human face. I think a composite of that would be interesting, and that is part of why I take photographs – to see what the effect is when I have done it.

  7. Great picture.I lite this and i hope go that some day.

  8. The last picture really looks dope! They should use those kinds of effects more in movies, I would enjoy that.

  9. I like panoramics, that last image is great! i love the fact that you can take a few images and merge them into one

  10. Great post David – I never knew how to stitch photos in PhotoShop to create a panorama. This helps, I’m only an amateur thou!

    • Glad to hear that, Roger.

      The great thing about the stitch tool in Photoshop is that it is all pretty much automatic. Just sit back and let it do its stuff!

  11. Hi,
    I like panoramas but they have to be done right.The last picture really looks dope! Using this kind of effects can be very attractive in movies.Thanks for sharing.


  12. Liewilyn Baynosa says:

    I like the last one. I like how it was distorted. ๐Ÿ˜€

  13. This is really cool… specially the last one…..

  14. marbella hen says:

    Hi, I’m trying to make a panorama view of the inside of a building with Flash, but of course I have no idea how. I have Flash CS4 Master Suite, and I have used it before, but not for this purpose. Anyone know how?

    • I am not familiar with using Adobe Flash. I can only think that the way to go about it would be to use one of the stitching programs such as Photoshop to make the image and then make the Flash file from that.

      Sorry I cannot be of more help.

  15. If only I knew about this when I visited France last year. I took about a gazillion photos of the Eiffel Tower, but all of the pictures never gave it justice on how big and beautiful the tower was. I’m not very photo or computer savvy, but if you could create a tutorial on how you did those photos, I would really appreciate it.

    • The Eiffel Tower would make a great subject for a composite image. As far as a tutorial is concerned, I can tell you that with Photoshop it is so easy that you would think it was magic. Just go to File > Automate > Automerge and let it do its thing.

      If there is one tip that I would pass along it is to make sure you take lots of shots around the subject and not just of the subject itself. So make sure you take lots of shots of the ground in front of the subject, and reach into the ‘corners’ as you are looking at the subject and take shots up there in the top left and top right corners and down there in the bottom corners.

      The way I do it is that I kind of quarter the area methodically and take lots of overlapping frames. It is better to have too many shots than to miss out a section and discover that when you get home!

  16. Backpacker says:

    Thanks for useful tips. I’ll try to make my own panorama photo in CS5.

  17. So cool!! Thanks for the tips. I really love that building in the last photo, it looks like it’s leaning over!

  18. How fun would it be to do a panoramic of that distorted building picture… can something like that be done?

  19. Useful tips and interesting examples here, David. I really need to learn more about photo techniques and editing.

    • Hi Sophie,
      Having a good image editing program like Photoshop makes making panoramas – including the purposely crazy ones like I made – a breeze.

  20. Your tip on the extra shots is brilliant. I’d never thought of something as simple as that. Photoshop is indeed a breeze to work with when you know how. Excellent panoramas and an excellent tips!

  21. For making panoramas in Windows systems I also recommend Hugin. It is a free program and found easily with Googling. It is easy to use and produces nice results. Tripod always helps but I’ve taken panoramas without tripod as well. Just gotta have a steady hand ๐Ÿ™‚

    • My guess, Akseli, is that you have recommended a good program. That’s because I just took at look at your post ‘HDR in Helsinki:Reflections’ and the photo is lovely – and beautifully taken.

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