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Learn Photography

Photoshop Elements >

1 - Panoramas: Photographing

You Need . . .

. . . Little Movement

Movement is okay in the center of the frame, but not elsewhere.

If there are waves breaking on a beach, clouds scudding by, people walking everywhere, and so forth, a panorama may not be possible.

. . . Even Lighting

Avoid photographing:

• When the brightness is changing rapidly, as when the sun is covered and uncovered by clouds.

• Scenes with both bright and dark areas.

Manually Set 4 Controls

Your photographs must be nearly identical.

Set the following controls manually so there's less variation between the photographs.

Control #1- Exposure

First, measure the light using Program mode.

Set the exposure mode dial to P, and press the shutter release slightly to turn on the light meter.

Point the camera at the scene, and note the lens opening and shutter speed values.

Then, switch to manual mode, M, on the exposure mode dial.

Set the lens opening and shutter speed to the values obtained using Program mode.

On DSLR cameras with two knobs:

• One knob will set the lens opening, and the other knob, the shutter speed.

On a DSLR camera with one knob:

• The knob usually sets the shutter speed.

• To set the lens opening, press and hold and the button with the aperture icon, and turn the knob.

Control #2- White Balance

Set the white balance to a setting appropriate to the scene.

If automatic white balance is used, the color may vary from one photograph to the next.

Control #3- ISO

Set the ISO to a setting appropriate to the scene.

If Auto ISO is used, the exposure may vary from one photograph to the next.

Control #4 - Focus

Set your lens to manual focus, if possible.

Focal Length

To prevent distortion, avoid using wide focal lengths.

No Polarizing Filter

Don't use a Polarizing filter.

Light is unevenly polarized in the sky.

If you were to use a Polarizing filter, the color of the sky may vary unnaturally.

Hand Held or Tripod

Hand Held

It's not necessary to use a tripod when making a panorama from several photographs.

Just be sure to hold the camera:

• Perpendicular to the ground.

• Level to the horizon.

Your camera must "fly" straight and level.

If your camera can display a grid in the viewfinder or LCD screen, it will help you to hold the camera properly.


If you're stitching together many photographs, use a tripod.

A bubble level will help you to set up the tripod properly.

Rotation Axis

This section can be ignored by beginning panoramic photographers.

If you're hand-holding your camera, rotate the camera as if it's on a tripod.

That is, the camera rotates over the same spot on the ground.

Imagine that a plumb bob is hanging from your camera.

A plumb bob is used to confirm that an object is vertical (90°).

The plumb bob string hangs from the bottom of your camera.

The weight at the end of the string is positioned over, let's say, a dandelion in the lawn.

As you rotate the camera lens for each shot, keep the plumb bob over the dandelion.

If objects in the scene are not close, there's less need for accurate rotation of the camera lens.

Why Is the Rotation Axis Important?

Close one eye, and then, the other.

The perspective changes.

The perspective also changes dramatically when the camera lens moves.

The optimal way to rotate the camera lens is on a tripod with a special panorama head.

The rotation axis is the entrance pupil of the lens at a particular focal length.

When the lens rotates on this axis, close and distant objects keep their positions relative to each other.


Space for Cropping

Leave some space at the top and bottom of the frame.

This will allow you to crop uneven edges and errors easily.

Consider holding your camera the wrong way.

Let's say you're photographing a horizontal subject, the Grand Canyon.

Hold the camera vertically, as if you're doing a portrait.

Let's say you're photographing a spiral stair case, a vertical subject.

Hold the camera horizontally, as if you're photographing a landscape.

By holding your camera the wrong way, there's more area that can be cropped later.

Overlap the Photographs

Most importantly, overlap the photographs by about 25% or so.

By doing so, Photoshop Elements can stitch the photographs together more realistically.

Below, there are three photographs of trees along a stone wall.

The red and blue areas were overlapped when the trees were photographed.


Now, you're ready to stitch your photographs together.