Step 1: The Parallax Problem
In the diagram above the addition of parallax will make to adjacent images in a round of panoramas different from each other. This is particularly true when there is an object in the foreground that interacts with a background object. With a lot of parallax you may end up with stitching issues.
Step 2: Minimizing Parallax
Step 3: Handheld Friendly Panoramas
This doesn't mean to say the image has to be boring as Stone Henge would make a great handheld pano friendly subject.
So try to avoid scenes with a high degree of foreground objects that interact with the background objects. If you do have some key foreground interactions try to shoot them dead central to the photograph so they are not the main stitching areas.
Step 4: Camera Setup
Set to Aperture priority and set the aperture to give good depth of field say 9.0
Take four readings at 90 degrees apart to get the min and max readings.
Average the readings and switch to manual mode, dial in the aperture and shutter speed based on the average.
At this point check the shutter speed isn't too low for handholding, if it is either increase the ISO or increase the aperture size.
Take some test images to see that the detail that you're interested in is coming out (i.e. if the sky is important make sure you're not blowing it out and if some of the darker areas are important make sure they're not underexposed)
Focus on the main subject area of your image and switch to manual focus
Set the white balance to one of the manual modes.
Now you're ready to shoot the scene
Step 5: Shooting the Scene
Start with the first frame and line up the focusing points with key features of the scene. Scan your eye to the right hand side of the screen and make a note of what features align with the right hand focusing point.
Take the photograph then moving your feet to rotate as much around the camera lens as possible, line up the features of the scene that were on the right of the viewfinder with the focusing points on the left of the scene.
Complete the round of photographs until the whole scene has been captured.
Repeat rounds of panoramas tilted up and tilted down.
The picture shows how you can use features of the scene to line things up as best as possible.
As you can see from the example in the picture I have decided to make life easier by investing in a grid type focusing screen. in stead of the standard focusing points it also shows a grid of horizontal and vertical lines whcih can be used to facilitate the lining up of frames.
Step 6: Stitching the Images Together
Once you've had a bit of practice shooting handpanoramas you'll find when you stitch your images together you'll get a bigger and better final image.
I use photoshop photomerge to stitch all the photos together, but there are many other software packages that can be used.
Using photoshop select File > Automate > Photomerge
to bring up the photomerge dialog box.
Select all your handheld files and process them, I always try using the auto setings first and if that doesn't work try the perspenctive and spherical options.
Step 7: What to Do With Your Panoramas
Once you've created your hand held panoramas, you can leave them as panoramas, or try to do something else with them.
I use my panoramas to create PanoPlanets by rolling them into little planets.
For more examples and in depth tutorials check out my website dedicated to PanoPlanets at