How to take a Panorama (Part 1)

Updated: Jun 10, 2021

Wide angle panorama

There are many types of panorama, but the one that this post will be focusing on is the most common wide angle panorama. Where a 2 or more images (could be up to 10+) are stitched together in post-processing to create a wider image than your camera is able to obtain with only a single shot.

Below you will find a list of all the topics that I will be covering in this part, click on a link to jump through each section


  1. Tripod

  2. Camera Orientation

  3. Camera mode (Raw vs JPEG)

  4. Camera settings

  5. Set your Focus Distance

  6. Shooting Mode (Aperture Priority vs Manual)


Use a tripod

A tripod is your best friend when taking a panorama, not only does it help with stabilizing your shot, allowing for shorter shutter speed during low light. It also helps with post-processing and stitching to ensure that more of the image is lined up


Tip - A tool such as the panning head will help speed up the levelling process.

Tip - Check your bubble level on your tripod or your camera’s built in one to ensure that the camera is level relative to the ground.


Camera Orientation

Typically, for a horizontal panorama, the best way to orient your camera would be vertically. As this provides the most amount of resolution in your final image. There are exceptions where if you know that the top or bottom of the panorama will not be part of your final image then feel free to use horizontal orientation to reduce the final number of images. As always there are no hard rules to follow here, this is highly dependent on the situation.


Camera mode (Raw vs JPEG)

Shooting raw will provide you with the most ability for post-processing, the only downside is the size and processing time. With storage so cheap these days, this is a no-brainer!


Camera Settings

Aperture

  • This should be set based on the final image you are looking to create. Typically, for panorama the subject is quite far and an aperture of f5.6 to f11 is used to ensure the entire image is in focus. Note that there are no hard rules, only guidelines, feel free to experiment with different apertures and see what works best with your setup!

ISO

  • Usually I keep this at my lowest possible to ensure less noise in my images. However, in certain case this can be increased to ensure a certain shutter speed is achieved.

Shutter speed

  • Shutter speed will depend on the image that you are looking to create, but should be set to ensure that there is no micro movement of the camera when taking the shot. Make sure the focus is on point!

  • Tip - Light trails can be obtained with a longer shutter speed and combined with your final image

  • Tip - Neutral Density filters can be used to create the desired effect for the image you are trying to create.

Metering

  • Meter the image based on the average of the image, you can even do a bracket panorama! Just make sure none of the image is clipped and all the data is preserved.

White balance

  • Should be set to anything other than auto to ensure that all your images taken have the same white balance for easier post-processing.


Set your Focal Distance

Depending on your subject and setup, I would highly suggest you zoom out 5 to 10% of the image to allow for any stitching error and provide yourself some tolerance during post-processing. Otherwise, have an idea of what your final image will look like and make sure everything will be captured.


Aperture Priority mode vs Manual mode

The setting is based on your personal preference and how comfortable you are with setting things up in manual mode. The only thing to keep in mind here is that we want to ensure that all the images taken for the panorama has consistent light and shutter speed, this will help during post-processing.


Tip - Keep in mind that during sunset or sunrise where the light changes very quickly, it might be beneficial to use Aperture priority mode to ensure that your left most image of the panorama is consistent with the right most image.



This post was created to give myself a better understanding of taking a panoramic image. I've tired to cover the most important topics and researched them thoroughly. As always, if you think there's anything I missed or if you have any thoughts on any of the topic, feel free to let me know in the comments below !

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