A few simple basics I recommend keeping in mind.
• Use a tripod unless it’s a snapshot to you. There is nothing wrong with handheld snapshots at speeds of double the focal length with added image stabilization down to about 1/125 shutter speed. If you don’t have a panoramic head level the tripod as best you can. If the light is fleeting don’t let it get away, fire a few shots before you set up perfectly.
• Establish a beginning and an end point.
• Make sure you have enough overlap 20-30% is fine unless you go really wide, then you’ll need more. With older stitching software you might need the extra coverage or you’ll start to see gaps in the top and bottom. CS4 & CS5 do a great job stitching at 20-30%.
• Shoot in manual or lock your exposure so that it does not change. (Advanced tip: I will occasionally add more light into a dusk scene where light is changing quickly. You can read more this in part 2.)
• Lock your focus. Be careful not move the focus ring or zoom between moving the camera for each exposure.
• Make sure to set the white balance to something besides auto.
• You don’t always need a foreground or a middleground. I have heard countless photographers say you need a foreground to create depth, that is not true. Some subjects don’t lend themselves to that, it’s best to stay open to change. You don’t want to witness the best light you have ever seen on your favorite mountain but not take a picture because you don’t have a foreground.
• Don’t limit yourself to a horizontal rectangle. A panoramic can be vertical, square or whatever you decide on. You can make a circle for all I care.
Most of these simple tips can be found anywhere on the net, some even copied verbatim. Don’t limit yourself to what I have mentioned here, take the bits and pieces that work for you. You can subscribe to the blog if you feel want to stick around for Part II: Advanced Tips of Panoramic Photography. I don’t blog heavily so you will not be bombarded with emails, this is no daytime talk show.
Some of Steve’s Panoramic Photographs gallery.
About the photograph: While leading a private workshop I snapped this 3 exposure panoramic while my client had a clear path with out foot prints in front of us besides what was off in the distance. This scene with fleeting light needed to be taken quickly so each of the 3 exposures were only seconds apart. In winter the light is gone faster then you think and that can create problems for slow creation of panoramic photographs. With a longer lens I can stay closer to clients when the light is at it’s best. This helps me show examples of what I have created in the field during a workshop without the need to disappear in search of that perfect foreground. Surprisingly enough most students don’t want me attached to the hip but I stick around anyway.
Read part II here