Saturday, November 16, 2013

I’ve got the Pano bug again!

Although I’ve experimented with pano capture in the past, I’ve decided to spend a little more time on getting the best out of the technique. Pano capture can really help with in-field work flow as it can reduce/eliminate the need to keep changing lenses: essential for dusty environments

For instance if I’m shooting with my 70-200mm F4L or 24-105mm, then, rather than switch to a wide angle lens, eg 16mm, what I would do is capture a pano of the equivalent image FOV.

At the moment I’m waiting for a tripod mounted 360 VR head to arrive from China, ie I can’t justify a US or UK made one at GBP400+. Until then I’ve experimented with hand held panos. The one below is a 24 image one I took of our home in New Mexico, to prove out my workflow, which was:

  • Put the camera in manual and be careful about filters, especially circular polarizers, ie best take them off;
  • Select an average exposure for the FOV I was interested in (I will talk about HDR panos in a future post); 
  • Lock in the exposure so it doesn’t vary across the sequence;; 
  • Take the pano sequence and select the ‘best’ directional strategy, ie with clouds moving left to right, take the panos up and down and to right, ie not left to right and down; 
  • Take the important areas first, eg people, and build up the pano sequence around this pivot image. Also if the subject is moving, eg a duck on water, take the duck in the first image and try and place the duck in the overlapping areas of subsequent images (the software will eliminate the duplicate ducks);
  • Ingest into Lightroom; 
  • Select a base image, eg the house area, and adjust image; 
  • Sync all other images to this image;
  •  Export images as 16-bit TIFFs to a folder, or export directly to your pano software if this is linked to LR;
  • Import into your favorite pano software and let it do its magic. In the case below this resulted in a 735Mb TIFF file; 
  • Make any tweaks to the image in PS CS-CC or LR; 
  • Convert to a JPEG, in the case below that resulted in a 30Mb file as I didn’t bother reducing the quality, ie I went for near-lossless.

Although I have PS CS-CC, I processed the image below in Microsoft ICE, which is a free and powerful tool: (

Bottom line: the next time you go out shooting try going with one lens but don’t limit yourself in terms of FOV, ie think panos!

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