I love panoramic images. It would be awesome to own a “real” panoramic camera because there are many limitations to digitally stitched panoramic images. However, 6x17 panoramic cameras are not cheap and film & development is also quite costly. I heard that some camera companies are now making a panoramic digital back, but its prohibitively expensive for the vast majority of photographers. For the time being, I’ll be making my images with my Sony A850 or whatever awesomeness Sony releases in the future.
Recommended equipment: digital camera, tripod, ball head, Photoshop cs4. Rule of thumb: the longer the focal length, the better the image; however, composition can be much more difficult. I’ve found that my 85mm (on a full frame camera) gives great results.
Setting Up Your Camera
Turn off autofocus or double check to make sure that the focus is locked. I’ve found that just about everything other than focus can be fixed in photoshop. It is also a good idea to turn off auto-white balance and to lock your exposure. However, if you’re taking a panoramic of a high contrast scene, it may be best to allow the camera to readjust the exposure and then correct the exposure in Adobe Camera Raw (you can do this with the color-balance too.)
Planning your composition
This may be the most important step in making a life-like looking digitally stitched pano. Ideally, you will be an equal distance from everything you are including in your image. For this pier image, I tried to set-up my tripod in the middle of the pier; in other words, it was the same distance to the end and start of the pier. If you’re taking images of objects that are not equal distance from your camera then you will have some wonky looking distortion or photoshop will not be able to align your images at all.
Framing your images
I always like to take a practice run before I attempt my shot; this helps to ensure that the camera is as level as possible and that everything that I want will be in frame. The general idea is that you’re overlapping images, so its best to overlap by about 20%. This takes some practice, but pick out a stationary object to overlap.
Here is an example of a poorly planned image that I took with a 35mm focal length lens:
Example of Well framed pano sequence: