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Why You Should Be Photographing Panoramic Pictures

Its no secret, I'm a panorama addict ! In fact, so much so that on almost every trip I'm aiming to get a panoramic picture to include on the site, but why ?

Corfe Castle Panorama
Corfe Castle Panorama 3:1 Ratio

Why Photograph Panoramas ?

For me the main reason is I want my photography prints to have impact, and let's face it a 3 metre long panorama has exactly that when displayed on a wall in a home or gallery.

They are unusual too, these unconventional prints really do offer something quite different to a regular 3:2 ratio print and perhaps most importantly, not many people seem to do them so you get a much better chance of selling them as anyone who wants a panoramic picture will have a limited number of photographers available with stock images, and of course an even more limited choice for locations, it just makes sense.

For me though, shooting these ultra wide panoramic pictures really is a joy because they are such high resolution and really show off the image to its full potential, plus they are very forgiving for images in case you want to use different ratios and take sections of the image out to use as individual pictures, for want of a better expression it has the potential to be 3-4 different prints from one image, so more bang for your buck !

panoramic print sizes

So as you can see, from one large panorama photo I now have at least 4 possible variations to offer to people wanting prints, the scope available on a panorama picture simply cant be ignored, not to mention the option of at least 2 variations on the 3:2 ratio.

When To Take A Panorama ?

Do all scenes suit a panoramic picture ? Absolutely not, and thats the trick, Knowing where and when to take one.

A panorama must always be effective and a scene that has something to offer with a wide sweep.

I find it especially good when using a long lens to get the maximum interest for a subject thats a long way from you so you can really drill down to the key elements of the shot.

Forests are a real favourite to capture with panoramas and of course big sweeping vistas work very well.

I tend to avoid coastal scenes with water in for the obvious reason, it moves which can cause stitching issues and inconsistencies in the image, but it's not impossible, again its better shot from a distance rather than close up.

The Dutch Barn Panorama
The Dutch Barn Panorama 3:1

I tend to take most of my panoramic pictures with two lenses, a Canon EF 100-400 mm and a Canon RF 24-105 mm, These lenses have proved most effective for the images, It would be a very rare occasion that I would use a wide angle lens like 15-35 mm to do this, but if the subject was close enough I would consider it but these wide angle lenses tend to distort too much which again makes the image harder to stitch.

mist photography
Misty Sunrise Panorama 3:1 ratio

Do You Need Specialist Gear To Do It ?

Well no, not really. Most peoples standard set up will take a panoramic photo but as with anything, the more advance you get with it the more gear is available in order to help you get the best image possible.

The basics, A tripod, A camera & a tripod head that pans, with this simple set up you can shoot a panorama and get a cracking image.

In order to get the best results your camera needs to be absolutely level on the tripod, and when you sweep either side it needs to remain level so a tripod with a levelling base will make it much easier for you as well as faster to achieve this.

I highly recommend the Kingjoy C85 Tripod as it comes with its own levelling base, is built really well and represents superb value for money, its a Gitzo quality tripod without the Gitzo price tag ! If you want to read about it I have reviewed it HERE This is my "GoTo" tripod for shooting panoramas.

Panoramic photo must haves
Self levelling bases are a must have ! Kingjoy C85 Shown

A good tripod head will make a lot of difference and whilst you can do it with a ball head it will make things much more difficult to keep things perfectly level, the better option is a geared head.

Geared heads are the perfect option for panoramic photography as they not only keep the camera completely central when in portrait mode (Unlike a ball head) but they have easy micro adjustment to get everything perfect, trust me on this they are just better in general and I use mine for all my photography, not just panoramas and I have never looked back.

Sturminster Mill
A Panorama shot made it possible to include the light dropping into shot and exclude the bright sky from it

An L bracket is a really useful option to have, not only are they fast to switch, but they enable the centre of the camera to be in the centre of the pivot while panning to stop any nasty inconsistencies in the sweep, again another item that just makes your photography easier in general and once you have tried one you will never go back.

I firmly believe that the fitted versions designed to specifically fit your camera are a much better option than the typical universal L Bracket so its worth spending a little extra on these as the benefits of it moulding to your camera is well worth it, it will really firm up your shot and eliminate the dreaded "Twist off" moments where everything becomes loose when you move the camera.

Now if you really want to go to extremes then you can get a Nodal rail slide.

What this does is enable to change the position of the Nodal point of the lens to have it dead centre over the point of rotation.

Essentially its a slide rail to sit the lens element above the pivot point so it gives you a perfect sweep, while the point of these is very good and does make a difference, its not absolutely essential and I rarely use one so don't feel you have to but if you want to do it then it will certainly add to the image and give you near perfect stitching.

The important point of all this gear is GET LEVEL, ignore that at your peril, it's the very basis of a panorama photo.

blackmore vale mist
a 2:1 Panorama that enabled me to capture more of the scene without too much sky

Do Panorama Pictures Sell ?

Absolutely, they might not be as popular as the regular 3:2 images but if someone wants one then they have already made their mind up and thats what they will have and nothing else will do.

Panoramic images also have another option which they have proved popular for, websites and headers often require a thin, long image and you can often sell these as a licensable image as they are perfect for this purpose.

It also helps you stand out by offering something a little different from anyone else.

Can I Just Crop A Regular 3:2 Picture ?

Well you can, but it kind of eliminates the point of a panoramic picture.

All you will be doing is losing pixels, while this would be fine for a web page banner, it's not desirable for printing where you really need the highest resolution you can get.

The advantage of taking a panorama in the first place is you can use maximum sensor detail in the image, especially when shooting a horizontal panorama but with the camera in portrait orientation.

Autumn New Forest
3:1 Autumn Panorama

Can I Take A Vertical Panorama ?

Absolutely, while this isn't as common as a horizontal panorama its perfectly possible to do a vertical shot and its especially effective with tall buildings where you want to give them separation from the surrounding elements or add a real perspective look.

It never hurts to have more pixels to work with in an image after all.

Printing Panoramic Pictures

Do you need specific printers to do it ?

Its really all down to the size you want to print, for example a Canon PRO 1000 printer will allow you to print up to 120cm long panoramas which is a good size for most homes, but when you want to go larger you really need to be looking at wide format printers that are roll fed rather than a specific paper sheet, these are not really viable as home printers due to their large size, heavy weight, running costs and huge initial purchase price.

The easier option is to have your panorama printed by a photo printing service who will have these specialist printers in store and are used to handling these types of images.

If you do decide to get a printer for panoramic images please do make sure its a roll printer, it really will make a huge difference to you rather than manually cutting a sheet and then having to hand feed it into the printer.

New Forest Mist
New Forest Dawn 2:1 Ratio

Which Ratio Is Best ?

I tend to base a panorama on a 3:1 ratio mainly which seems to be a really good fit for most people but I also do a lot of 2:1 ratio images as the extra width can help fill out a large wall, and everyones space is different so its good to have a bit of a choice available.

3:1 offers me a lot of options to cut it down as well if I need to, these will always be shot with the camera in the portrait orientation and swept across.

As always though the image in front of you will dictate which ratio you need to photograph it at but as a rule 3:1 is a good starting point.

I have shot images as much as 5:1 ratio but in truth it's just way too much, it's so long and thin that it almost looks silly to have, 4:1 is possible but still has an element of "too long" to it, 3:1 feels and looks right in most situations.

Bluebell Panorama
3:1 Ratio Bluebell Forest
Bluebell Forest
2:1 Bluebell Forest Panorama

How Many Pictures Should I Take For a Panorama ?

This isn't an easy question to answer as everything is different depending on the image.

You can take as little or as many as you want but if you start doing 180 degree sweeps then obviously things just aren't going to match up on the image.

For me the golden number is usually between 7-10 images to make one horizontal panorama of 3:1 ratio.

Each image will overlap by a half to a third, but the more overlap you take the better your chances of a good stitch are for the final image, this is especially true when shooting things like mist where there is little detail for the computer to match up and attempt the stitch, the more information you can give it to work with, the better.

Best Programs To Stitch a Panorama ?

Photoshop is pretty much the standard for stitching together panoramas and most of the time is does a pretty good job to be fair.

I have had several panoramas that it just simply couldn't stitch in the past though (Mainly misty images) and I discovered Luminar Neo which has a dedicated plugin in for Panorama stitching and this hasn't missed a beat, its been absolutely spectacular for me, managing to seamlessly merge the panoramas that Photoshop simply couldn't do.

The program works as a stand alone photo editor or can work as a plugin for Photoshop but if you ever have a panorama that wont stitch then give this a go as its simply fantastic and with all of the other features that come with it I have found it a really useful edition to my post processing workflow and it has a large number of features that Photoshop doesn't, its the secret weapon that Pros don't want you to know about ;)

Colmers Hill Mist
Stitched With Luminar Neo as Photoshop couldn't manage it

To Use Filters Or Not With Panoramas ?

I tend to always shoot with a polarising filter for my photography as it really adds that extra something to the image and of course reduces reflections but when I'm photographing a panorama I tend to take it off as they can produce some areas of darker sky in the image which has negative effect on the stitching of the image so its best left off.

Worth noting that this will only happen if you really are using the polariser on full twist and exaggerating the effect, especially on wide angle lenses.

If you feel the scene really needs polarisation then best to use it on longer focal lengths and in moderation, while it can really add to a scene theres nothing worse than getting home with what you think will be an epic image and then seeing massive changes in the sky colouration across the image.

Graduated filters are a deferent animal altogether, these are just fine to use on a panoramic picture and can really add to it giving you a nice balanced exposure so I highly recommend using them, my personal choice for all my filters is Kase Filters, they are quite simply the best and most neutral filters out there. If you want the best for your image (and you should) then use them.

I hope this blog post has been useful for you and you decide to give panoramic photography a chance as it really will open up a whole new world for you to experience and enjoy.

If you would like to purchase a panoramic or triptych print from me you can buy them HERE

If you would like to see a gallery of my panoramic pictures you can see it HERE


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