Create an Awesome Panoramic Photo, Without Special Equipment




This tutorial will show you how to create an awesome-looking panoramic photograph, using a normal point-and-shoot camera, without any special lenses.

EDIT: This instructable has become somehwhat obsolete. There's a piece of freeware that will automate the Panorama-creating process, called Autostitch. Here it it is:

Step 1: Get Everything You Need.

You will need:
1) A digital camera, or a film camera and some way to get the pictures onto your computer. I reccomend a digital camera, though, since there will be alot of trial-and-error, and if you use a film camera, you'll just end up wasting film.
2) Hugin, a free program, which is available here:
3) Autopano-sift, another free program which is available here:
4) The image editing program of your choice. I prefer the GIMP.

EDIT: This instructable has become somehwhat obsolete. There's a piece of freeware that will automate the Panorama-creating process, called Autostitch. Here it it is:

Step 2: Take Your Pictures

When choosing a subject, I reccomend something outdoors; it will end up looking better.
Also, you want to choose a subject that wont be moving or have alot of people walking around in your picture.
I chose my old high school, at night when no one was around. I wouldn't always reccomend doing this at night, because the pictures may turn out too dark, but choose choose for yourself. You can experiment and see if things turn out how you like.

Now, before you take a picture, you'll want to mess with your cameras settings in two ways:
1) Make sure the flash is off
2) Make sure the settings are manual, not auto. On manual, mess with the settings until you see something on the image preview that looks good. Fool around with the white balance and film speed and things to change the brightness.
The reason you're doing these two things is so taht each picture is taken with the same settings, and the same brightness. Otherwise, when you stitch your pictures together into a panorama, there will be ugly lines going accross your picture, where the brightness changes.

Now, time to take your pictures. If you have a tripod, I highly reccoment using it. If not, you'll need to find another way to ensure that your pictures aren't changing in height (one was is to use a visual cue. I did it, by making sure that the horizon was flush with part of my autofocus indicator on the LCD screen). anyways, you want to take a picture on the far left end of what you're photographing (you could start at the far right end, and go right-to-left, but we're doing left-to-right in this example).
Now, take a look at your picture, and make sure it looks how you want it to, brightness-wise and what-not. Then, turn your camera a little bit to the right, so that the right 50% of your last picture is the left 50% of your new picture. You want to make sure that you keep the camera level (which is alot easier with a tripod). Continue doing this, moving about half the size of your camera's view each time, until you feel you've got a wide enough angle.

You don't want to go a complete 360 degrees, though, because this may confuse the computer programs, as to where the edges of the photograph are supposed to be.

Step 3: Using Autopano-sift

Autopano-sift is a program for adding the necessary check-points to a series of images, in order for Hugin to know where to stitch them together. Install the program, if you haven't already, and load the pictures onto your computer.

Next, go to the place in your start menu that you installed autopano-sift, and click open "autopano-sift GUI"
To use autopano-sift, do the following steps:

1) Click "Add Images" and add all the pictures in your panorama, from your camera
2) Optional Step: Set "Maximum Keypoints per image" to 20. This will make your pictures look a little nicer, but take longer for your computer to use autopano-sift and Hugin.
3) Under PTO output, click "Select" and browse to the folder you want to save this file. I reccomend using the same folder as your pictures are in. Name it whatever you like.
4) Click "Compute" and wait for it to finish thinking. It should take awhile, depending on how fast your computer is, how many photos you used, and what dimmensions the photos are. It will show you the progress though. I reccomend not opening up other programs, while you're waiting, because (for me atleast) it's prone to freazing.

When it finishes, click ok, and you should have a file called "output.pto" or whatever you named it, in your folder with the pictures.

Step 4: Preparing the Photos in Hugin

Now, go to the folder in your start menu where you intalled Hugin, and open it.

When you open hugin, it may pop up with a window, asking you for the "crop factor" for your camera. I can't tell you what this is, since it's different for each camera (Unless you happen to have a Sony DSC-S40, like me, in which case, it's 6.57). This window show you how to find the crop factof for your camera. It's 43.3 divided by the diagonal size of your CCD chip, in millimeters. Search the internet, or the instruction manual, for this information about your camera. If you can only find the length and width of the imaging chip, thehn just remember back to elementary school geometry: a2+b2=c2 ;-)

Click File>Open, and open the PTO file you created in the last step.

It should now list all the photos you're using, under the images tab. You can click on a picture and it will show you a preview. Nifty.

Speaking of previews, click on the third button from the right, on the toolbar at the top of the window, and it should show you a little preview of what your panorama is going to look like. Looks pretty crappy, right? Don't worry, we'll fix it.

First thing we'll want to do is add in some vertical and horizontal guides. click on the "control points" tab, and it should bring up a window with two pictures, one on the left, and one on the right. Select make sure they're both the same picture. Next, pick out something in the picture that is obviously supposed to be a horizontal line (like the horizon) or obviously supposed to be a vertical line (like a lamp-post or a building). Click at one end of the line on the LEFT image, and then click at the other end of the line on the RIGHT image. If a window pops up, saying there's no similarity between those two points, don't worry about it, and click ok. Now, click "add" in the lower-right corner, and it should add a guide between those two lines. It should be able to automatically tell whether you were trying to make a vertical line or a horizontal line. Repeat this for every obvious vertical or horizontal line, on each photo.

Next, just go over to the "Camera and lens" tab, and click on one of the photos. Do you see anything besides 0 under "Barrel (b)"? If so, then your camera has barrel distortion; remember it.

Now, go to the "Optimizer" tag, and check "Positions (incremental from anchor" from the dropdown box, and click "Optimize now!" then click "apply" when it's done. Do the same thing for "Positions (y, p, r)" and "Positions and Barrel Distortion," if your camera has barrel distortion.

Now, click that preview icon, again. Click "center" and "fit," if your panorama is all small and off to one side. It should look alot better than it did, before. If not? Maybe add some more guides. After you do, be sure to optimize again.

Now it's time to process all of this, using Hugin.

Step 5: Stitching the Photos Together, in Hugin

Now, you should be in Hugin, inder the "Stitcher" tab.
Pretty much everything here should already be set to right automatically, except for a few things.

First, click "calculate field of view" this will be different for every panorama you do.

Then, click "calculate optimal size" Same deal.

Under "Image format," you'll either want JEPG, or TIFF. TIFF will be higher quality, but take up alot more room than JPEG, especially since (for some reason) it creates TIFF copies of all the portions of the panorama, along with the panorama itself. If you do choose TIFF, make sure you click "Soft blending" and then click the button that says "Stitch now!"

And wait there, while your computer works. It'll take awhile, but it should let you know when it's done.

Step 6: Crop the Image

Alright, this is the last step. When Hugin finishes stitching your image together, you should end up with a panoramic image with very screwy, uneven images, like this. This is normal.
Now, all you need to do is take your favourite image-editing program, and crop away the extra parts of your image, and you should now have an awesome-looking panorama.
I reccomend keeping the original image the Hugin outputs, too, just so you have a full-quality version.



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    7 Discussions


    12 years ago

    The thing about Photoshop, is it may do this all automatically, but it also costs $150, where all the programs I use in this tutorial are free. That Autostitch program is really cool, though, Scholewiak. Good post.

    1 reply

    12 years ago

    A tool I use is PanaVue:
    It was recommended to me by a professional photographer as his tool of choice. The professional version costs about as much as PhotoShop CS but it was the only tool I was able to successfully stitch together some of my panorama shots well enough to create large prints. Both Hugin and PhotoShop CS failed (I didn't run across AutoStitch when I was looking for tools but I did run across AutoPano which failed also).

    So, if it is really important and all else fails, it is a great tool.


    12 years ago

    I'd highly recommend Autostich (
    Autostich makes it incredibly easy to make panoramas because all you have to do is take the pictures and drop them onto the program. No settings that you need to worry about and the output is spectacular. Attached is a pseudo wide-angle photo of the Rotunda, at the University of Virginia, which was created with about 12 source photos, and a panorama of my one of the serpentine walls in the gardens surrounding the Lawn.

    rotunda-stitched (large).jpgserpintine-wall.jpg

    12 years ago

    if you have photoshop cs, you can do this same thing, but much easier

    1 reply

    Reply 12 years ago

    yep, CS does everything for you. if you have some crazy pictures that CS dosent know what to do with, you just snap the pecies together like a puzzle.