The 5 Pillars of Panoramic Photography!

Here is your beginners panoramic photography guide to shooting 360-degrees around.

Film enthusiasts are the ones putting in the real work here. Analog fans either have to purchase expensive, specialized cameras or spend hours in the darkroom stitching together various images. Before digital photography came around, only professionals could craft stunning wide angle shots that seemed to envelop the viewer.

danube river panorama

Nowadays, iPhones have a plugin that allows you to perform the same task. Simply select the “panorama” setting in your “camera” application and follow the directions. Article over, right?

Not so fast; there are still some little-known points you should keep in mind when approaching 360-degree photography, especially when using real cameras. Keep reading to learn more about the five steps that will have you taking panoramic shots like an expert!

1. Quality Panorama Equipment Is Crucial!

Again; most smartphones allow you to capture pretty decent panoramas. Point-and-shoot cameras have similar modes that can simplify the process. If you’re looking to jump the extra mile, however, you should consider purchasing a few important pieces of equipment.
A magical panoramic setup includes a DSLR, a fisheye lens, and a panoramic head. Many photographers prefer the Canon 8-15mm fisheye, found here on Amazon. Wide-angle lenses will also work, but the process will entail more stitching if your camera lacks a panorama setting.

Using a panoramic head on a tripod will simplify the stitching process and leave you with more precise final products. Manufacturers that produce decent panoheads include Nodal Ninja, Bushman, and 360 precision.

golden gate bridge panorama

2. If your camera has a panorama mode, use it.

Even point-and-shoot cameras have this setting, unless we’re talking about the most basic of models. Panorama mode helps simplify the process in a

variety of ways. The interface displays the photo you just took while providing a live view of the current frame, which allows you to better judge your shots.

Under the hood, you camera will also use the same exposure settings for every photo. You won’t encounter annoying issues with lighting that would otherwise leave you with hours of post-processing work.

You might feel confident about your ability to capture panoramas au naturel, but you should at least start with the special mode on your camera. (If anything, just be grateful for advanced technology.)

3. Don’t. Move.

Before you start shooting, check the scene for movement. An errant pedestrian or wandering deer could ruin the image with accidental blurs. Of course, many photographers intentionally seek blurred movement in their panoramas, whether it be from a busy highway or bustling street. Your best chance to avoid these issues is to take the images quickly. Calibrate your equipment, decide which parts of the scene you want in the picture, and shoot away.

If you have the time, experiment with different blur effects and perhaps you’ll surprise yourself.

4. If you don’t use panorama mode…

Most importantly, make sure your camera is in manual mode. If you use automatic, your camera might expose the photo differently when you adjust the frame for the next shot.
For the shooting process, let’s start with portrait position. You’ll want around six shots around, one shot toward the zenith (up), and at least one shot toward the nadir (down).

The result will be a full sphere, which will pop even more realistically with a fisheye lens.
In full-frame position, I recommend four shots around you with the camera pointed slightly upward—about five degrees. This method doesn’t require shooting above or below the first frame, although you might lose some resolution due to the lesser amount of total photos.

5. Stitch it up!

First, remember to shoot in RAW to preserve photo data. Process your RAW files using the same settings, and export them as TIFFs. If you’re experienced with Photoshop, you can stitch them together with the tools it offers.

mountain tops panorama

More likely than not, you’ll need panorama software to stitch them together. Some of the more popular software is PTGui and Hugin stitcher.

Both programs will do the job, but most users find Autopano Pro to be simpler and more automated. If you prefer to have more control over your work, however, you should consider using PTGui and tackle a few learning curves.

Panoramic photography can take a lot of work to master. Overall, some honest experimentation will push you a long way. You’ll make discoveries after every shot, such as how awful it can be to stitch two photos together when the seam contains bright areas (sigh). Additionally, you’ll better be able to troubleshoot issues from tripod shadows to exposure glitches.

Now that you know a little more about 360-degree photography, grab your camera bag and get snapping!

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