10 Quick Tips for Great Panoramics

We’ve been talking this week about fun and unique ways to photograph cities. Yesterday, we talked about how to take great reflection photos. You’ll find that issue here.

Panoramic photos (though we don’t spend a lot of time talking about them in this newsletter) are a great way to capture iconic skylines of cities, wide mountain ranges, landscapes, and more. And panoramas are saleable, too.  Think billboards, website banners, stock…

Today, I’ve asked professional photographer Efraín Padró to give us the basics on capturing a seamless panoramic photo that you’ll be able to sell.

Scroll below for his 10 quick and easy tips…


Lori Allen
Director, Great Escape Publishing

November 20, 2010
The Right Way to Travel

by Efraín M. Padró in Santa Fe, New Mexico

I always encourage aspiring travel photographers to take a variety of images of the same subject. Adding vertical, horizontal, and even skewed versions of the same subject to your collection will increase the chances of making a sale to magazines, stock photo agencies, websites or other travel-related publications.

Although panoramic images are not as commonly used in editorial markets, they do work well for particular subjects that are long or wide, such as an expansive mountain range like this photo of the Volcanic ridge and Shiprock in New Mexico. They are also popular as fine art prints.
Panoramic Photos

Capturing the required frames to stitch them as a panorama requires that you pay attention to a number of technical details. The following are some technical tips for stitching panoramas; they are intended to make it easy for your panorama software to blend the frames together.

1.    Take vertical (not horizontal) images; you will have to crop the panorama once it is stitched together, and the vertical format will give you more room to crop around the subject.

2.    Use a tripod and make sure your camera is level as you pan across the subject. (You can buy  bubble levels for this that insert into your camera’s hot shoe.  Or maybe you have a level built into your tripod. Some cameras even have a built-in level in the viewfinder.)

3.    Use a focal length 50mm or higher to avoid the distortion created by short, wide-angle lenses.

4.    Take a series of five or more images (this can vary quite a bit depending on the area you are trying to capture), making sure the frames overlap about 30% (or so).

5.    Put your camera on manual focus and manual exposure. This will stop your camera from adjusting to different light as you pan across the scene.  You don’t want your images coming in with different exposures or focal distances. You want a smooth, seamless look to the finished panorama.

6.    Do not use auto white balance (AWB). This will avoid different color casts in different frames. I typically use “sunny” white balance when photographing outside, but other white balance settings can be used (but not auto).

7.    Do NOT use a polarizer filter.  The sky might look bluer in one frame than another with it on.

8.    If shooting when the light is changing quickly (early or late), you have to work quickly as well. Again, you want to avoid one section of the subject looking different than another.

9.    Photograph in RAW format for maximum flexibility when it’s time to work on the panorama on your computer. If you are not comfortable with processing RAW images yet, shoot both JPEG and RAW. You can revisit the panorama (and thank me) later.

10.    Have fun.
[Ed. Note: If you’re not sure how to create a panoramic using your photo software, we wrote about how to do it using Adobe Lightroom. You can read the article in our archives here.

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