Taking Handheld Panoramic Images
By keeping in mind a few simple techniques, you can capture scenes for
later stitching into striking panoramas. I have generated a list of
tips, and then tested them to show which factors are most important.
This article includes:
- Background on digital panoramic photography
- Tips for handheld panoramic photography
- Handheld panorama tests
- Extreme parallax: the Coit Tower panorama
don’t need a bunch of money or equipment to
I have been playing with panoramic images since I first got a
digital camera. I loved my 17 mm lens on the old 35 mm camera, but
couldn’t quite replicate it. In theory, I could just take a
series of shots, covering the scene, and put them together in
Photoshop. In practice, it was impossible to combine more than 2 images
manually. A little reading found scores of suggestions about gear and
specialized software. I didn’t know if it would be worth the
money, and wasn’t going to jump in. Luckily I found that a
certain level of success can be obtained without specialized hardware,
using free software. A little reading may convince you that
good panoramas can’t be produced without serious investment.
Don’t believe the hype. Just get out there and try
it. These hints will help avoid some of the pitfalls involved with
taking handheld panoramic images.
Panoramic heads do facilitate predictable, automated stitching, but for
situations where there is not enough time (or money) to set up a
specialized rig, handheld can work just fine. For inspiration you might
want to check out
Leung. Although he uses high end cameras, Jook
Leung represents one of the masters of the hand held technique.
Why would you want to
make digital panoramic photos anyway?
Ignoring the above photo, I figure some of you might need a bit of
background. Three main reasons
I take panoramic pictures are increased resolution, wider angle of
view, and virtual reality.
- Increase Your Camera’s Resolution
– you can get better resolution (in pixels) than
high end digital slrs like the nearly 17 megapixel Canon EOS-1DS Mark
II, 39 megapixel Hasselblad H3D-39 or even the native
resolution of 4×5 film (estimated at 240 megapixels). This is
only really cool if you plan on cropping, allowing someone to zoom into
your photo, or printing your images in very large formats, like ten
feet across, while retaining detail. One recent example is
- Create super wide angle photographs
of your lens
– digital cameras
typically have a hard time with wide angle shots, because of the
smaller sensor size. Stitching several images together can
create a wide angle photo without buying special lenses. You can even
create an image greater than 360 degrees if you want. (There are links
to a couple of examples in the resources section at the end of the
- Virtual Reality makes your photos interactive
tours. Panoramic images based movies are used for real
estate promotion, or to bring someone into King tut’s tomb.
The user can scan around, just like they were standing in the scene.
(The actual creation of the movie will be covered in another