Tips For Stitching A Digital Panorama

flinders ranges south austrlain landscape photography

If you would like to learn how to create big beautiful stitched panoramas like the one above, read on !

1- You need to get yourself a Panoramic tripod head – and a sturdy tripod.

If you are shooting any photo at every landscape photographers favourite time of day, the golden hour, you will need a sturdy trip-pod, and for a stitched panorama you will also need a panoramic tripod head. This is a tripod head that allows you to put your camera in a position where it can spin on its nodal point, also known as the no-parallax point.
In brief, the nodal point of the camera is roughly around the front of the lens. Its one of the most important things to take into account when stitching a digital panoramic landscape photo because if you don’t get it right, what is called parallax will not allow you to stitch the images as the photos will not cleanly overlap on the same plane of vision. for a detailed description of parallax click here –

2- Where ever possible, shoot your panoramic images sets as portrait frames for horizontal pano’s and landscape for vertical panoramic images.

This is not major but if you are stitching panoramas, especially landscape photography panoramas you will be doing it for the extra resolution you can achieve, not just for the perspective, so why not do all you can to maximize that. If you shoot landscape frames for a horizontal panorama, you will need 3-4 images to create a 3:1 ratio panoramic image, and with the same image shot in portrait would take 5-6, that’s a pretty significant difference in overall resolution !

3- Always use a slightly wider focal length than you think is needed to achieve the desired composition and shoot an extra frame either side of your panorama.

I have blown more than one panoramic image by trying to be to clever and precise. Its better to be safe than sorry so always zoom out a touch, and shoot a frame either side of your intended composition, and then crop the image in a touch once stitched. Its worth sacrificing a tiny bit of file size so you don’t potentially loose part of something important in the image.

4- If shooting a HDR pano do not use a shutter remote.

Shooting a HDR (high dynamic range) panorama adds another level of difficulty to your shot, and basically more things can go wrong. Golden hour light can change very quickly, so its very important to get from one side of the scene to the other, and shooting three exposures per frame, instead of one, adds a fair bit of time to the equation. This is where the two second remote timer comes in, something that your dslr should have, set your AEB (auto exposure bracketing) in your settings as wide as desired to achieve details in the highlights and shadows. You may need to up the ISO slightly and widen the Aperture to speed up the shutter speed so you don’t get movement between exposures. the two second timer will allow you to get from one side of the scene to the other quickly as the exposures will be captured one after the other with no delay once the first is taken, the two second timer will give you enough time to rotate the pano head to the next frame and let the camera settle. This will take a little practice, but its the best way to do it in my opinion.

5- The difference in focusing between horizontal and vertical panoramas

When shooting a vertical panorama, the first frame, if shooting from the ground up, will be more or less at the base of your tripod, and the last frame, will be way off in the distance and that’s why i usually shoot my vertical panoramas on auto focus, because there is usually a greater depth of field to cover. Horizontal panoramas on the other hand are usually a more even depth of field (the distance between the nearest and the furthest focused objects in an image) in my experience. So what i do, is find a mid focal point in your scene(this is knows as the hyper-focal point of a scene), auto focus off that point, and then flick it back to manual so the focus doesn’t jump from foreground to background as you are panning across the scene. There are limits to to what you can achieve with focus and depth of field in a scene, this is where focal stacking images comes into play.