How to line up shots for stitched panoramic images

Anthony-Lakes-chair-lift

I like to carry a simple point-and-shoot Canon S900 pocket camera. It is convenient for capturing of-the-moment photos, but it produces a frustrating lack of detail when I am faced with large panoramic nature scenes.

Adobe Photoshop CC and other programs now have very advanced image stitching and photo merging capabilities. Here I will show you how to frame up your shots for the best possible stitched results. Of course, you can make much better quality images with good camera and a tripod, but this method is to make the most of hand-held pocket cameras.


Four techniques:

Panorama-Instructions-01Standing at the side of the highway, with my camera zoomed all of the way out, this is what I see through the lens. The aspect ratio is 4:3, and the resolution is 4000×3000 px.

While this is very nice looking, I would like to create an image of much greater detail, that shows the grand, looming presence of the mountains that I experienced with my naked eye.

All four examples are taken from one spot on the side of the road.


Example 1:
Zoomed-in landscape pan

PROS: My favorite. High resolution and low distortion. CONS: May need to zoom out for better composition and context.

Panorama-Instructions-02 1A. Holding your camera in landscape mode, zoom in to your subject, and choose a frame that includes all of the foreground and sky that you need for your final composition.

Panorama-Instructions-03 1B. Start panning across horizontally. Move your frame about one-third each time. You will need the overlap to make up for lens distortion and vignetting.

Panorama-Instructions-04 1C. Continue panning across until you have all the shots you need for your composition. Be careful to keep a point of reference, like the horizon, to make sure you shoot straight.

Panorama-Instructions-05 1D. Here are the actual photos. It took ten images to pan across the mountain range. Note the natural, in-lens vignetting. This should be removed in the stitching process. You are now ready to stitch photos in your graphics program.

Elkhorns-Pano-123114 1E. RESULTS: 10 images, zoomed-in, landscape orientation 15274×2996

Download the ZIP of ten images below to stitch your own panorama together.

zip-file-icon-49x64 01-Nelsdrums-Zoomed-In-Landscape-10.zip (31 mb)


Example 2:
Zoomed-in portrait pan

PROS: Highest resolution, least distortion. CONS: Difficult to line up shots. Can be time consuming when stitching.

Panorama-Instructions-06 2A. Holding your camera in portrait mode, zoom in to your subject, and choose a frame that includes all of the foreground and sky that you need for a final composition.

Panorama-Instructions-07 2B. Start panning across horizontally. Move your frame about one-third each time. You will need the overlap to make up for lens distortion and vignetting.

Panorama-Instructions-08 2C. Continue panning across until you have all the shots you need for your composition. Be careful to keep a point of reference, like the horizon, to make sure you shoot straight.

Panorama-Instructions-09 2D. Here are the actual photos. It took fifteen images to pan across the mountain range. Note the natural, in-lens vignetting. This should be removed in the stitching process. You are now ready to stitch photos in your graphics program.

Elkhorn-Mountains-Pano-Tight-123114 2E. RESULTS: 15 images, zoomed-in, portrait orientation (B) 24128×4686

Download the ZIP of fifteen images below to stitch your own panorama together.
zip-file-icon-49x64 02-Nelsdrums-Zoomed-In-Portrait-15.zip (55 mb)


Example 3:
Zoomed-out pan

PROS: Uses the least shots, very fast to shoot, shows more context. CONS: Most radically distorted pixels, hardest to stitch together in proper perspective, lowest resolution.

Panorama-Instructions-10 3A. Here I have zoomed all of the way out, and will shoot overlapping images from left to right.

Panorama-Instructions-11 3B. Move your camera about one-half of the frame at a time. Note how the perspective changes drastically with the addition of near-field foreground elements.

Panorama-Instructions-12 3C. The more images you shoot zoomed-out, the more distorted your final stitched image will be. Try not to go over 120 degrees. You are now ready to stitch photos in your graphics program.

Elkhorns-3-Images-Stitched-Perspective-1231 3D. RESULTS: 3 images, zoomed-out, landscape orientation 9588×3050

Download the ZIP of three images below to stitch your own panorama together.

zip-file-icon-49x64 03-Nelsdrums-Zoomed-Out-Landscape-3.zip (9 mb)


Example 4:
Multi-row zoomed-in pan

PROS: Possibility of making massive, detailed images. CONS: Most difficult to shoot properly, more chances for stitching errors.

If your graphics program supports it, you can actually stitch a whole grid of images together. To do this, you will need a good eye and points of reference in the viewfinder to line up the shots properly.

Panorama-Instructions-13 4A. Here we have the 3 stitched images. They are fairly low resolution. To recreate this in high resolution, you need to shoot additional rows of images.

Panorama-Instructions-14 4B. Find a good reference point, zoom-in and shoot across horizontally like I have described above. Give yourself plenty of overlap.

Panorama-Instructions-15 4C. Continue across until you have all you need for the composition, then move down for the second row.

Panorama-Instructions-16 4D. Create a second row from your previous reference point. Continue until you have an equal amount of second row images. Add additional rows as needed. You are now ready to stitch photos in your graphics program.

Elkhorns-3-Images-Stitched-Perspective-1231 4E. RESULTS: 12 images, zoomed-in, landscape orientation 38352×12200

Using the methods described here, I was able to make all of the panoramic images on this site using only a small, handheld point-and-shoot camera. Let me know how it works out for you.

Baker City Hi Rez Eastern Oregon Scenic Winter Panoramas

Skiing at Anthony Lakes on New Years Eve

Kia Soul Hamsters Animated GIFs

Here are some leftover GIFs from the Kia Soul In My Mind Music Video Challenge.

And a few wallpapers to brighten your day. Right-click and open in new window to save to your computer. Thanks to kickass creatives Sarah & Sean at DNG.

Kia-Soul-Wallpaper-1-Clear-2650x1440
Kia-Soul-Wallpaper-3-Shadow-2650x1440
Kia-Soul-Wallpaper-2-Molten-2650x1440

Big Head, Little Body

This week my brother-in-law and I went and photographed my son’s fourth grade class outside the classroom. We directed them to make “larger than life” expressions and poses to create some unique class portraits. 28 students, 1 teacher and 700+ frames later, we were ready for some coffee.

Next I spent some quality time with the images. Chose the most dynamic poses and expressions, then went about removing the background. My intention was to spend about 1/2 hour per person, as I like to get these projects done as quickly as possible. It turns out girls with long hair posed an unexpected problem: no hair showing where their neck was, and long hair hung down way too far for the tiny bodies.

So, now we have a couple of real world word math for your fourth graders to solve:

  1. Nels had 29 photos to retouch. There were 16 boys and 13 girls. Boys and girls with short hair took 1/2 hour each to retouch, and girls with long hair past their shoulders took 1-1/2 hours each. If there were 10 girls with long hair, how many hours did it take Nels to complete his project, if he also spent 2 hours creating a slideshow presentation?
  2. If it takes 7 minutes per page to print 29 archival posters for students, how many hours does it take to print all of the posters?

Use the comments to submit your answers.

The students really enjoyed the Keynote presentation that used the photography project to help explain what I do for a living, and how I went about creating the artwork. There was raucous laughter as each image came on the screen, and that made it all worth while. Each child was presented with an archival poster print.

Click on the image above to view a slideshow of all 29 portraits.

What do you think? (leave a comment)

Download wallpaper, portraits, high-res and groups.

Lexus 2008 LSh Photography

I just completed a grueling marathon shoot of the new LS Hybrid with Aussie (by way of London) photographer Anton Watts (shown below with coffee all over him). Something like 28 shots in 12 days. Many in the studio, and some on location. A new world record! More images after you click.

Oh yeah, I did the retouching myself while on location. See the rest of the photos.

Princess Cruises Poster

Here is a detail from a Princess Cruises poster I composed for of Saputo Design. I had to get old school and take some photos of water bubbles with my digital camera to add realism. Check out the “before and after” images in my portfolio player to see what went into this image. I think you’ll be surprised! More images after the click.

2006 Lexus IS Photographs

I just added two recently directed 2006 Lexus IS photos taken by German photogapher Thomas Strogalski. They are the first two images in the slideshow (Just click on 01 or 02 to view them). “Orange” was taken in downtown Los Angeles, and “Blue” was taken inside a parking structure. I was extremely excited to shoot with Thomas, and the results speak for themselves.

After the stills were taken, the IS shots were animated for the U.S. Lexus website. “Orange” is displayed on the Lexus Home Page, and “Blue” is on the 2006 IS Model Page. There is also a Wallpaper version of “Orange”, and a Screensaver of the “Blue” animation.

IS Orange

Lexus IS Anchor and Strip

Just a little image I put together to present the new IS anchor (that I shot with Thomas Strogalski) and strip images to Lexus. The strip image is created from two stock images and a CGI vehicle. I did the strip retouching to match the photographic anchor image. It’s fun to color coordinate, isn’t it?

In addition, here is the final Anchor Animation and Home Page Animation made from the still photos.

GMC Canyon Retouching

Saputo Design asked me to retouch their new GMC Canyon images. Dig those rich blue-blacks. More shots after you click the image.

KIA Amante Retouching

I just finished retouching six Kia Amante images for Saputo Design. Each image is composed of six to twelve photos. Spectacular imagery, thanks to photographer Uwe Duettmann. Certainly an excellent start for the new Kia Amante.

More beautiful KIA Amanté shots after you click an image.

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