#1092. The 101 uses of stitching photographs

By pascaljappy | Art & Creativity

Feb 18

Panoramas are one obvious use. Creating files with more pixels is another. But can we find enough to outnumber dalmatian puppies ? Onwards, woof.


This is probably my most frequent use of stitching. The square format (or close to) is a classic. It is possible to crop a rectangular frame and get a square, of course. Dynamically, it is a very different experience to getting closer and making two shots. There’s an action to getting the two shots that feels a lot more involving than getting away from the subject and framing a square within the rectangular viewfinder. It feels more active and involved.

Of course, it’s possible that the alignment between the two frames ends up being slightly imperfect. But, is that such a bad thing? Is our eye scanning fixed on a rectilinear referential or do we move about based on emotion? I’m not advocating sloppiness. But it is quite unlikely that the few degrees of misalignment detracts from how we actually perceive the photograph. To me, the dynamic experience more than makes up for a tiny misalignment and experience beats technical perfection 10 times out of 10.


Depth of field

Here, things become even more interesting.

The first frame in this image is focused on the bottom of the V trunk formation in the foreground. The second is focused on the single tree in the middle ground. Getting one frame in sharp focus from 3 feet away to the cave entrance at least 30 feet further, without a tilting lens, good luck with that. Here, using a small enough aperture (f/6.3, but it could have used f/8) insured that the two could be stitched OK, giving the impression of one continuous frame made at f/32 and ISO 10 million (it wasn’t very bright in there).

“Oh the horror” I hear the purist cringe. Stitching frames with different focus points? That’s against every rule in the book. Guess what, it gets worse. Really worse πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜‰


Freestyle frames

If the previous photograph was against the rules, then this one comes with a health warning!

Let’s go over the rules of panoramas and try to understand their purpose to determine how and when they can and should be bent!

OK, start with a tripod. Not necessary but it makes all the others a lot more convenient. Level the tripod head. That’s important if you want your horizon to be level and not have to correct it in post (any PP always introduces a little bit of image degradation). Rotate around the nodal point of the lens. That’s not always easy, depending on where the manufacturer placed the screw under the camera. This matters because it ensures that no parallax is recorded between individual frames and the resulting stitch is seamless. This is particularly important if your pano incorporates multiple layers of objects (some in the foreground and some in the background). In practise, I shoot all my panos hand held and very very rarely encounter any issues with parallax. Same focus point. We’ve covered that. Same exposure. We’ll cover that below.

Now let me describe the process for the photo above. The camera was tilted very slightly to create that slope towards bottom right and increase the feeling of the house being dragged down. The frame on the left was shot as stable as possible. The shot on the right was shot in silent mode, which introduces huge rolling shutter on the X1D, and distorted the trunks and branches. Admittedly, I was very lucky that it worked out (Lightroom is excellent for this). Rushing after my family made another attempt totally impossible. But … what if it didn’t ? Who cares? It’s more important to try something original, get a few wins and take a few losses than follow rules in a book that all lead to identical looking images.


Free neutral density filters

You see where this is going, right? I know you know. I know you know I know you know.

Dark foreground, bright sky. Wet weather. Good luck keeping those Lee filters dry. In my case, good luck finding the time to set up a tripod. What this photo doesn’t show is my leg horizontally blocking the family trolls that wanted to move on. 2 shots, 4 seconds, is what I got. Aperture priority, auto exposure. Two frames, two different exposures.

And, guess what. 99.9% of the time, Lightroom’s algorithms produce a much lower visual signature than a ND filter does. I can see no downsides.

Here is the same photograph in colour. The b&w post processing isn’t hiding any hideous band πŸ˜‰

And here’s another.

And another


The photograph above also demonstrates the benefits of stitching for 3D pop. The Brenizer Effect is an extension of this, and while that can be a bit gimmicky, adding a bit of 3D this easily is not to be sniffed at.

Another advantage of stitching, aptly pointed out in a comment, is that it approximates a curved sensor. Get yourself a nifty fifty. Even better, an old nifty fifty with gorgeous character and flaky corner correction and start stitching with a lot of overlap. You’ll get only the center goodness and produce images that are far less sterile than what modern glass can ever give you. All for 150 bucks πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

So, that’s not really 101. But, if you apply all those ideas in as many combinations as mathematics allow, you probably get close to a dalmatian puppy number of ways to break the rules creatively. And that’s a lot of fun, in my book.

Got any other ideas? Objections? Lauding? Looking forward to reading you!


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  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Ah, well. I’m “sprung”, before I even open my mouth – or my pen or whatever. And you know perfectly well that I am, Pascal – because you’ve seen a number of my “stitched” shots and heard of countless others.

    Best was when I produced a set over over a hundred of them, for a friend of mine to turn into a catalogue of her creations, when she wanted to sell the jewellery that she was making. Five thousand frames later, she had a fairly extraordinary set of photos.

    But others include panos all over the place in Europe – including one that takes in the entire Old Town Square in Prague – and one I’m still working on, with an island 15 km offshore here.

    You can’t take all your junk with you, travelling around the world – not unless you have a gentleman’s gentleman like Jeeves following around behind you, carrying it all from place to place.

    So instead of a tripod and a tilt-shift, you improvise. Take a carefully chosen set of frames, all hand held, all with the same or approximately the same exposure. Then stitch. Or if you like, create a panorama. Doesn’t have to be horizontal – can be vertical.

    Or with extremes of exposure – set up a collection of frames to be used later to create a single HDR shot.

    Or to create huge depth of field in a landscape photo, like you’re suggesting, Pascal. We all know about DOF – but while it’s sometimes a blessing, and actually “makes” the shot, at other times it’s a complete pain, and prevents us from realising our dream shot.

    What it is, is a perfectly logical extension of “focus stacking”, like all those shots that ended up in the jewellery collection. But instead of focus stacking to create a perfectly sharp image of a ring, or a necklace, you’ve use the same principles to create an image from the rocks at your feet to the cave entrance in the distance.

    Eyeballs are somehow more resilient than cameras – perhaps our autofocus is adapting so that whichever point in the scene we are actually looking at is in focus. Cameras don’t work that way. Your idea, however, does.

    I LOVE it. I’ve used it laterally – and vertically – and in all those focus stacking images – and a lot of other macro stuff. And in HDR “assembles” (HDR’s), to deal with the deep shadows and bright lights in available-light night photography.

    But it had never occurred to be to use it in landscape, for added DOF.

    A great example of how we can develop as photographers, by trying something new, something different – something outside our comfort zone – even if we venture into doing things that other people might regard as rather bizarre.

    Because life is a voyage – a voyage of exploration and discovery. You only need to watch what happens, when small children start that voyage. Then stare at yourself, and ask yourself to give a perfectly honest answer to this question – “are you STILL working on exploration and discovery? – or have you ceased to ‘live’, and simply subsided into merely ‘exisiting’?”

    • pascaljappy says:

      Thank you Jean Pierre !

      Oh, HDR, I completely forgot about HDR. But that’s another use for stitching !! Must add this to the text πŸ™‚
      As for your last paragraph, it is the suject of the next two newsletters : exploring and inner child. I could not agree more with you.


      • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

        Another thing you mention in this article is “format”.

        Doing landscape, we have a tendency – an ‘unthinking’ tendency – to compose our shots in a standard horizontal format. Commonly, 4×6.

        When I was post processing the shots I took on my last excursion to Europe, increasingly I found myself kicked into a corner. Forced to use some other format. Sometimes, 3×5. Sometimes 4×5 – or 5×7 – or 5×5. And sometimes, I just had to go with the image, and give up altogether on trying to fit it into a “common category” of images sizes.

        As you mentioned, when you started shooting with the Hassy, sometimes it went vertical, instead of horizontal. and since you suggested it, I’ve been finding articles in various magazines making the same suggestion.

        In short – like the “rule” of thirds and all those other “rules” of composition. Yes- that’s fine – I’m still listening – but I want to try X, YZ, instead of what you’re suggesting.

        Or put another way – to move on and to improve our images, we have to think outside the square – beyond the obvious. Bring on “creativity” – and restrain the use & application of the “rules”.

        • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

          OOps – did I say “instead of what ‘you’re’ suggesting”? I meant instead of what “the rules” are suggesting.

  • Sean says:

    Nice. This article reveals, and the images show, that stitching can, and does, get ones creative juices flowing and take one on a creative journey not otherwise considered. That has got to be of benefit and be rewarding, for the individual. It certainly opens other doors, doesn’t it. One thought, framed as a question, does stitching preclude using a certain type of lens – read wide to very wide angle lenses?

  • Cliff Whittaker says:

    I love the images in this post, especially the last two. That’s the type of tonality and depth that I’m always looking for and seldom finding.
    About that book of photography rules: where can I get one? None of my many cameras came with one. I haven’t taken any formal photography or art lessons and I suspect that’s where they are issued, for a substantial price. I’d like to have one so I can learn it and burn it.
    Images that I make are for my own pleasure and I do whatever I want with them if I can learn the process to do it. Anything is fair in photography unless you are making a visual record to be used in a court of law.
    I certainly don’t like all of it. I’ve recently found videos of the works of a number of famous old photographers. I was eager to dive in and see what I could learn that had made them so famous. But, after spending time with them I wondered how some of them ever became famous. Must have had a good PR person. Or, more likely, it came from academia.
    Too many of the images looked like someone had scrounged around darkrooms and taken the rejects and test strips out of the garbage cans. So, I guess that proves that anything goes in photography.
    Anyway, stitching, panos, HDR, or whatever, it’s your art and you should not feel the need to apologize to anyone for doing it. In fact, I hope to learn some of the techniques and try them myself in the coming year. Maybe I’ll become famous. :))

    • Sean says:

      Arr ha hah harrr “… I’d like to have one so I can learn it and burn it…” love it, Cliff. This has made you famous, in my eyes.

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