Panoramas, photostitching and why you shouldn't wear pantyhose on your head

by Stefan Fletcher May. 31, 2009 5645 views

Having opened the Tourist Shooting Season in my previous post (large calibre, please; let’s be humane), I was worried about the large number of cock-ups and bollixed panoramas yesterday and went back to my good old, reliable tilt-shift lens for testing. It came as a relief to discover the error was entirely human. Mine.

Canon is about to ship a phenomenally expensive, wide-angle tilt-shift lens over which I drool and am trying to justify the expenditure. Until that happy day when I just happen to be in front of a bank with a sawn-off shotgun and a balaclava (tights / pantyhose can be so itchy, not to mention ridiculous), I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone and test photostitching with my 45 tilt-shift.

If anyone has the time or inclination to look at old home interior magazines from ten years ago and the present, you’ll see a vast difference. Interior panoramas are a fascinating challenge we can all do. Even those virtual views of hotel rooms are vaguely interesting. Go on, have a go at home. You’ll look at your home in a whole new way. I think the software shipped with most digital cameras includes a photo-stitch function.

The important things for a good panorama are as follows:
1. Shoot in manual at the narrowest possible aperture (highest f/ number) for maximum depth of field. This requires a tripod, as interiors are always darker than outdoors
2. You need to shoot manually to override the exposure decisions made by the camera, otherwise one panel might be too differently exposed compared to the next
3. Shoot vertically (yes, vertically) to minimise distortion
4. Allow for at least a 20% overlap from one panel to the next (one of my mistakes yesterday)
5. Your sensor should revolve around the axis of rotation. Three-way tripod heads set to a vertical position will displace the camera. With outdoor panos, this isn’t so serious, but inside, a 2-cm shift can wreck things. I love low-tech solutions (I once suggested to Jarvo that he model flash light using a toilet roll), so if you’re using a small compact, tape it vertically to a knitting needle stuck in something solid. I know, I should get out more.
6. Your photostitching software will take care of the rest, but remember the image is now very long. I’ve discovered that the ideal ratio of height to length is about 1:5. Personally, I find 360° panoramas unattractive and confusing.
7. An opening (window, door, etc.) is unavoidably going to be over-exposed and needs attention.

Images 3 and 4 are over a metre long in their longest “real” dimensions, and the level of detail (alas, not really visible here) is extraordinary. The marks I thought were specks on my sensor turned out to be, ahem, small stains, which I had to clean up manually. I wish there were a real-life equivalent of patch and clone functions. Actually, there is, but my cleaning lady, a lovely Ukrainian woman, only likes dusting my bookcases. As neither of us speak each other's language, getting her to do something she doesn’t like, but I need, is rather like a master class with Marcel Marceau.

The first two images are there because I realise how tedious it must be to look at close-up pictures of someone’s books.

Fisheye 15 mm lens, and I realise that I'll have to change those roses even though I bought them only yesterday…
Actually, it's not really a fisheye. I live in a very bendy house.

17-40 wide-angle zoom set at 17 with significant barrel distortion and wilting new flowers

Ah, a vertical panorama with pristine sharpness. I just love my tilt-shift lens

A three-panel pano using the shift function. Tilt-shift (or Nikon perspective control) lenses are manual focus, so definitely not the lens for quick shots. In fact, a full-frame camera, live-view and a tripod are necessary.

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There are 17 comments , add yours!
X 12 years ago

Very nice!

12 years ago Edited
Aylin 12 years ago

Thank's for all your comments! And sorry for answering so late to them..
No, I'm not from France but I'm fascinated by Paris (even though its population is sometimes "moody" know what I mean:)
Your pictures are great too.. Especially the first one!
All the best

12 years ago Edited
Mikkal Noptek 12 years ago

Interesting series.

12 years ago Edited
Hong S 12 years ago

love your book shelf, its amazing to have so many books,, I feel guilty to throw books away,,:p and poor roses,,, pretty color though

12 years ago Edited
Jennye 12 years ago

Great set!! and thanks for the lesson.
Reading your words makes me realize how little I know
about photography! lol!!

12 years ago Edited
Ricardo 12 years ago

3# is quite interesting!
I enjoyed it ;)

12 years ago Edited
Kecskemétiné Nelli 12 years ago

I enjoyed your bookshelf, although PB can't show it in full detail. The first thing I check in a new place is the bookshelf. It's one of my "bad" habits..

12 years ago Edited
Laura 12 years ago

Great shots! Wish I had a library like that...I so love to read! Great lesson too....maybe some day I can put your advice to good use.

12 years ago Edited
Piyali 12 years ago

I ran out of patience reading, sorry about that not that I would understand all of it..but I love your typewriter and your stock of books....your house is spotless clean (which I envy) and please water the rose next time you buy it..

12 years ago Edited
Thebronzebow 12 years ago

That is a set of bookselves any bibliophile would envy. Thanks for the tutorial.

12 years ago Edited
Eric J H Joyce 12 years ago

Great advice & super shots.

12 years ago Edited
Lynda 12 years ago

I love seeing your interior. What a bibliophile you are. Try aspirin in the flower water or some soda water mixed in to prolong the roses' life.

12 years ago Edited
Jordijoan 12 years ago

Lección de encuadre y composición con una definición perfecta.
Eres muy bueno !!

12 years ago Edited
Sandra Vermeulen 12 years ago

All sounds very interesting ...
And after another three times reading it, I do understand a small part of it ...

12 years ago Edited
Michael Sakowicz 12 years ago

I've got to start shooting panos. Nice lesson indeed.

12 years ago Edited
Ivan 12 years ago

Great set! Having a good lesson on panorama.Thanks a lot!

12 years ago Edited
Jarvo J 12 years ago

Great results you've got there. Are you sure you're not a tilt-shift salesman? You've certainly got me wanting one. Love the typewriter, does it do HTML?

12 years ago Edited