#257. 7 Ways to Create Stunning Photo Panoramas: 3/3

By pascaljappy | Opinion

Jul 17

For this final instalment on creating photo panoramas, I kindly ask the more scientific-minded reader look away for a minute … Ahem.

Now, here are two techniques that many will not consider to be true panos but reproduce the important dynamics and are fun to use.


6) The drift panorama

A very funny way of taking the individual frames that will make up a panorama is to drift past the scene, in a car, on foot, on a bike or by boat. Rather than rotate your body to encompass the whole scene, you keep your camera aimed straight ahead at right-angles with the subject and capture it bit by bit in parallel chunks.


Drifting by Çırağan Palace

Drifting by Çırağan Palace


In the example above, a Çırağan Palace was used in low light from a cruise boat on the Bosphorus, in Istanbul. 5 frames were used by AutoPano Pro to create this view. As the boat didn’t stay at a constant distance from the shore (during the minute long drift) the perspective appears curved at the bottom of the frame.

Strangely enough, Photoshop had a lot of trouble understanding the data, producing all manner of weird results, the least disturbing being the one below (after 40 minutes of number crunching and 3Gb of RAM used permanently). At least the shoreline is straight.


Topalova Palce in Ibslantul, blblblbl

Topalova Palace in Istanbul


This technique is particularly useful when you are close to your subject and do not have access to a view camera with large shift movements. Swinging your camera would mean a lot of perspective work for your stitching software. Here’s a second example of a door in a very narrow street in Provence. I took 3 frames at different heights (upright, crouching, on my knees)  keeping my camera parallel to the door and taking care to alter the lens-subject distance between frames.


A craggy old door in Provence: vertical stich of 3 horizontal frames

A craggy old door in Provence: vertical stich of 3 horizontal frames


It would probably be a lot of fun for cityscapes and street scenes such as markets. Anyone tried it before ?


7) Vignetting

This is a bonus track that many wouldn’t consider legitimate but I think is very interesting.

Vignetting creates a frame within a frame and keeps the viewer’s attention focused where the photographer wants it to be. In the example below (still Çırağan Palace, in Istanbul)  vignetting is mainly to the sides and prevents the eyes from leaving the frame laterally. The photo is all about presenting the Palace and its prime location on the waterfront. It is static and beautifying. There’s a subtle composition play between the stairs and evacuation “waterfall” so that the eyes scan the palace’s façade and the vignetting makes sure nothing outside of it can grab the attention.


Çırağan Palace

Çırağan Palace, on the Bosphorus


It is easy to create the opposite impression through the use of horizontal vignetting at the top and bottom of the frame and none on the lateral edges, so that the eyes never want to go to the darker parts and are forced to roam the frame horizontally. While not technically a panoramic photograph, the effect is similar in that it creates dynamism.


Çırağan Palace, on the Bosphorus

Çırağan Palace, on the Bosphorus


While totally uncropped, this image conveys movement towards the right through the use of a vanishing point and strong darkening of clouds and water. See also the very first image.


Final thoughts

For most subjects and purposes, the cropping technique is by far the simplest and most satisfying, because it lets you choose the final frame in the comfort of your home.

If ultimate file size and quality are your priority, the swing and stitch is called for and I do recommend investment in AutoPano Pro, a good (smooth and stable) panning platform and a low distortion lens.

I bought the Mirex specifically for a series of vertical street panoramas in Marseilles that is still waiting for free time and meteorological conditions to align. I doubt that I will keep it after that in spite of the high quality, tilts and fun factor. It’s a bit more weight, a bit more work for a format I simply don’t use often enough.

If you’re just starting out, don’t constrain yourself too much and experiment. Simply stay clear of the exaggerated aspect ratios that most cameras suggest for marketing purposes. If you get a little more serious about it, try projects involving a large number of consistent panoramas and try to keep aspect ratios constant. It is all too easy to produce a jumble of images that are very difficult to present together. The 2:1 format often feels very stiff. 2.4:1 is a good place to start.

Have fun and tell me what works out for you!

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  • Christopher Perez says:

    This is a great way to expand one’s photographic capabilities.

    For myself, many times I’ll take individual shots using a “shot-gun” or “splatter” approach and then stitch them up using a free open source software called Hugin. It’s very easy to come away with extremely high resolution images, too.

    Here’s an example – http://www.flickr.com/photos/christophersoddsandsods/8192542699/ The original file is huge and, well, lovely. 🙂 🙂

    • pascaljappy says:

      Oh, Christopher, that is a lovely pano. What an atmospheric view of Florence.

      I’m currently in London with little access to computers but will definitely try Hugin on my return. I’ve found the shot-gun approach to generate some weird artifacts on some programs. If Hugin deals with those well, that’s good nezs.


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