Panoramas are an integral part of the architectural photographer's armoury. In general shots, which encompass a very wide field of view, especially if letterbox format, are termed panoramic. They come in a number of guises from the "pretend" cropping of a 35mm or APS format (into a wide-narrow shape) to the Fuji GX617 with its enormous piece of emulsion equal to twelve 35mm frames. Hasselblad make a 35mm pan format, the Xpan. Standing alongside these options are all manner of electronic and mechanical devices, which either spin the camera or spin a slot in front of the emulsion. To assist there are also a range of software options which stitch images together into passable arrangements.
Providing that you do not use wide-angle lenses it is possible to create a really high quality panoramic stitch using Photoshop or some other image manipulation software. This is the technique we will concentrate on in this feature.
There are five phases to the creation of a pan.
1. Ensure that the camera is mounted so that it can rotate evenly and in a plane level with your horizon. Use the camera in Manual exposure mode and manual white balance if appropriate.
2. Get the images into a computer by either shooting digitally or scanning.
3. In Photoshop align the elements.
4. Adjust the tone range if required.
5. Blend the elements using a layer mask. `
Care taken during the shooting will be amply repaid at later stages. The three most important things are to get the camera level (preferably using a spirit level), allowing at least 50% image overlap and shooting fully manually (so that exposures and white balance are all identical). If you have a clear horizon ahead of you it is possible to track the camera around and ensure that the centre of the lens stays on that horizon. Do not point the camera up or down to get more land of sky. If you need a wider view of the scene, put the camera in portrait orientation (assuming it is not medium format!)
If you shoot film and then scan, take extra care to line the scans as this will save problems later. If you think you are going to have trouble with alignment and thus need to rotate images, allow extra resolution to give yourself a few pixels in hand. Engage your brain before starting to scan. A 36-shot pan scanned off 35mm at 2700ppi will give you almost a GB of file - work out the size that you need or down-size a set of the images before you commence your stitching. The composite screen grabs show the stitch process in detail.
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