Photographing Panoramas - ColdSnap Photography

Photographing Panoramas

Photographing Panoramas: 

  Originally Posted June 2010
Before digital photography I photographed using a Toyo 4×5 field camera. This camera allowed me to shoot a variety of formats by simply changing the film back of the camera. I used a Horseman 6×12 roll film back for my panoramic images. I love the panoramic format, in fact most of the time I was shooting with the 6×12 format film back on my field camera.

Today I still love and shoot a lot of panoramic format photographs. Instead of using my trusting 6×12 film back I stitch several vertical digital images together to make a panoramic format photograph.

Lakeview Beach Silver Bay
Here are some tips for helping you get better panoramic images.

Shoot with your camera in a vertical format-this way you get more pixels per image which results in a higher resolution image file and allows you to make bigger prints.


Rotate your camera as close to the lens nodal point as possible. If you don’t know exactly where the nodal point is don’t worry–if you are only close that is usually good enough for general landscape photography. Generally the lens nodal point is in the middle to middle-rear of your lens. In order to rotate around this point you will need an “L” bracket and a “Macro-slider” to properly position the camera. Really Right Stuff sells brackets that are designed to rotate around the nodal point of a lens. I use a 4th Generation Design gimbal head and a 4th Generation Design macro slider to get me close enough to where I need to be.
Shoot in manual mode and don’t change your settings once you have begun your series of exposures. This means that your scene should be close to the same in exposure all the way from the right to the left side (or up to down, depending upon which way you are rotating your panoramic!) This can be one of the trickiest parts of getting a good panoramic image.


One of the advantages of digital is being able to vary how long the panoramic format is based upon the number of images made. This means I am no longer a slave to the set format of 6×12 or 1by2. Always shoot one more image to the right and one more image to the left of the edge where you visualize the panoramic starts and stops. I do this to make sure that I get all the sky and foreground I want in the final image. During the stitching process you will lose a little in the corners of the left-most and right-most image; shooting an extra frame compensates for this loss and allows you to simply crop out what you don’t want to use.
Overlap the frames of your pan by a minimum of 33%, I overlap closer to 50%. Make sure you bring plenty of memory card space with you when you go out to shoot panoramic because you will use it up, especially if you get into HDR panoramas.


Sound like fun? Consider attending Reflections of Summer II where all participants who desire will; receive an in the field demonstration of panoramic technique, be able to borrow a panoramic bracket assembly, shoot, assemble the resulting image files on a computer, and finally print a panoramic photograph of Lake Superior or surrounding area.