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How to shoot a panorama – for beginners

by | Tutorials

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A panorama is an image obtained from combining multiple shots of a single scene taken at different, overlapping angles. These kinds of shots are usually ideal for landscape photography. If you are planning to go for a panorama shoot, this article is for you.

We’ll walk you through the process of shooting a panorama so by the end of this article, you’ll be able to confidently head out and shoot your own. Let’s dive in.

Plan your shoot

Whether going for a professional gig or shooting a panorama just for fun, you need to plan your shoot properly if you want great results. It is during this phase that you will prepare the tasks that you will go through on the shoot.

Scout your location

Take time to visit the location in order to have a clear idea of how it looks. This will help you plan the shoot accordingly; helping you determine what time of day would be best for the shoot and the gear you’ll need.

Prepare your gear

Having visited the location, it’s time to prepare your gear. Different photographers will have different kits, but certain equipment and accessories are essential for a panorama shoot. Two must-have pieces of kit for a panorama shot are:  

  • Tripod: Essential for keeping your camera absolutely still, and making sure you get the exact angles you need for accurate stitching in your photo editing software later.
  • Wide-angle lens: Essential for capturing wide views, meaning fewer shots for your panorama.

How it works

As stated earlier, a panorama is an image made of multiple, overlapping angles of a scene stitched together. It is ideal for outdoor photography, but we encourage you to be creative and see where else you could apply the same shooting technique. Depending on your end-goal, you can shoot a portrait or landscape panorama. However, you will likely shoot in landscape mode most of the time. Again, be creative and try different orientations.

The Process

A basic panorama, and a good one to start with consists of a row of 3 portrait orientation frames of a scene (fig.1). For the best results, ensure that 30-50% of each frame overlaps with the surrounding frames. This will ensure your editing software has enough information to work with when you get to stitching the frames together to form the panorama.

fig.1

Step 1:

With your camera in portrait position (90 deg.) on a tripod, frame your shot so you are shooting the left-most corner of your entire panorama frame.

Step 2:

Next, pan right to the center frame of the panorama. Keeping to the overlapping rule, remember to include the last 30-50% of the first frame in the second frame.

Step 3:

Finally, pan again to the right for the last frame of the panorama. Again, ensure you follow the overlapping rule, including the last 30-50% of the center frame in the right-most frame.

That’s it, you have all the shots for a basic panorama. For a more advanced and larger panorama, try shooting a grid of 9 frames (fig.2). This will take a bit of practice but is well worth it for the results.

In post-production, you will use tools such as Adobe Lightroom’s ‘Panorama’ feature for single bracket images (Photo > Photo Merge > Panorama) or ‘HDR Panorama’ for multiple bracket images (Photo > Photo Merge > HDR Panorama).

fig.2 – 9-grid panorama / multi-row panorama

For the best results…

Use a tripod

Although you could shoot hand-held, trying to shoot overlapping scenes while holding the camera with your hands doesn’t make practical sense if you want to get the best results from your photoshoot. With a tripod, you can precisely position your camera at various angles.

If you have the budget, consider purchasing an automated tripod head such as Syrp’s Genie Mini II Pan & Tilt Kit. This awesome head kit is designed specifically for shooting stunning panoramas and 360-degree photos, and can be used for panning time lapses as well. If you have the extra budget, definitely go for one of these.

Exposure bracket your images

Exposure bracketing is a technique used to combine multiple exposures of one frame together to create a high dynamic range (HDR) image. This form of bracketing will allow you to capture shadows, midtones and highlights in their most ideal settings.

Step 1:

To bracket, find the most balanced exposure setting for your shot. This is usually where the exposure meter has the marker centered (fig.3). Take the first shot.

Step 2:

Drop your exposure 2-3ev down for the second shot (fig.3).

Step 3:

Bump up your exposure 4-6ev for the final shot (fig.3).

fig.3 – Exposure bracketing

In post production, you will merge these photos into one using the ‘Photomerge’ feature in Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop’s ‘Merge’ feature. More on this in another post coming soon.

That’s it from us for this week. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to keep up with the latest from Luks Magazine, and for extra freebies we send out to our subscribers.

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