Panoramas Without a Wide-angle Lens




About: I'm a writer, but I love robotics and computers. As I find some free time, I want to try some of the DIY projects found here and create some of my own.

Have you ever wanted to take photos of a huge landscape? These are panoramas (in case you didn't know).

There are two ways people normally take them:
1. With a wide-angle lens
2. Without a wide-angle lens

So I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that I just contradicted myself. Well, that's not true at all. You can take create panoramas with a simple point-and-shoot (PAS) camera--digital or film--or a more complex digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera.

Some of you might also be thinking: why go through all this work when you could just get a wide-angle lens. While that's true, people wtih PAS can't because you can't interchange lenses, and not everyone with a DSLR owns one or wants to buy one. So long as you have the right software and equipment, this is free.

Step 1: What You'll Need

You'll need several items to accomplish this:
1. Camera: use either a PAS or DSLR. Camera phones and webcams are shite so the photos will come out accordingly. I use a Canon Rebel XT with an 18-55mm lens
2. Software: for this Instructable, I'm using Photoshop, but others will work as well (I don't think MSPint will cut it). I think Adobe has a free web-based version of Photoshop online that might do the trick*
3. Scenery: you'll want something nice and big. My photos were taken at Ocean City, MD
4. Tripod (optional): if you can't hold your camera very steadily, use a tripod, but I never did for these photots

*I noticed recently that I've got a program on my computer called "Panorama Maker 4" by ArcSoft. I have no clue where I got it from or how good it is, but considering the name, I guess it makes panoramas.
Or something.

Step 2: Set Up the Camera

The way you'll do this depends on your camera and skills.

A lot of PAS only have automatic modes; if you're camera doesn't have a manual mode (regardless of the type), put the camera in landscape mode (if it has it) or just a basic, auto-everything mode. My PAS is pretty cheap since I use a DSLR for stuff like this so I don't have a landscape mode. But if you do, it'll be a picture that looks like a mountain.

If you have a manual mode, use it. In fact, many DSLRs have multiple manual modes so use the one that requires you to set everything yourself, and set your lens to manual focus. This is critical.

Choose a spot out in front of you that has a good field of view. If you want more sky, hold the camera vertically; if you don't, hold it horizontally.

Next, focusthe camera, zoom out all the way (if your lens has a zoom), and set the f-stop and aperature. Keep the exposure the same. Changing it will create visible stitch lines.

Step 3: Frame the Shots and Take the Pictures

Start at either the extreme left or extreme right (depending on which way you perfer rotating).
Hold the camera as described in step 2.

Do not move laterally (left or right, forward or backward) while you shoot. I prefer to turn my waist and keep my feet still, but if you're not comfortable you can rotate with your feet. This is where a tripod comes in handy. When the shots aren't all taken at the same height, you get a curved shot like the one you see below.

Take your first picture and rotate a few inches towards the opposite extreme.
Continue this process until you've covered the whole scene; don't worry if you overlap. In fact, they'll usually overlap by about 35%-50%.

Keep the camera at the same height and distance (forward/backward) while taking the shots. Since I have a DSLR, I just keep the viewfinder up to my eye so this does the trick. If you can't hold the camera steady, use a tripod. Otherwise, if the frames are off at all, it'll make it harder to stitch together and will mean some of the picture will be lost to cropping.

When you're finished, you'll probably have between 5 and 10 frames. It depends on what you can see and how many photos you take. The sample I've been showing took nine to build.

Look at the photos below for samples. These are the individual shots I took for the panorama. Framing was simplified for me since I was standing on a porch that had walls on either side so I stood in the middle of it.

Step 4: Process the Photos

This is where your photo editing program comes in.

Start by uploading your photos. Name them so you know the order. I usually call them pan1, pan2, pan3, etc. The first one on your camera is 1 and so on. This will make it easier to stitch them together.

From here, you've got two options (keep in mind I'm using Photoshop so I don't know if this is available in another program). Stitch by hand or let the program do it for you. Both have their own benefits.

Stitch by hand (this is the hardest to turn out properly; seen in the example below, you can still see the stitch lines in the photo).
1. Open all of your photos at once in your editor
2. Determine the size (height and width) of the photos (should all be the same)
3. Keeping your photos open, create a new, blank document that's the height of your photos and the width of one times the number of photos you have. For example, if your photos are 32 inches wide (mine are) and you have five of them, the width should be 32x5=160. In the end, you'll probably chop off a lot of this
4. Start at one extreme end (your #1 panorama photo), and copy that picture into the big block. You shouldn't have to modify this photo just yet (if at all)
5. Take your next photo (2), and copy it in. It'll get dropped into the middle of the new document, but since Photoshop will automatically create a new layer for it, you can move it around without moving the other photo
6. Line this photo with the first, but don't merely place the two side-by-side. If the photos were taken properly, you'll have to place the second one on top of the first one. Look for similarities in the photos to find where they overlap
7. Repeat step 6 until all the individual photos are in the one big file
7b. Here's where it gets tricky and will take some patience. You're almost guaranteed to have hard lines in between photos so you'll have to remove them
8. Using a variety of techniques, ranging from the clone stamp to the airbrush and eye dropper, remove the lines. This will take a lot of patience and time. For clouds, sky, and water, you can generally get away with using the airbrush; it's a little faster. For ground, especially grass, use the clone stamp
8b. Occasionally zoom out to check your progress. When you can't see the lines with the image zoomed out enough to see the whole picture, you're good to go.

Below is a photo I hand-stitched. Unfortunately, I don't have one to match up with the auto-stitched one you'll see throughout the instructable because the auto was done so well I felt there wasn't a need to do a hand version (my first two auto attempts were only so-so).

Step 5: Processing the Photos, Part 2

If you're not confident in your editing skills or don't have a lot of patience, you can use the auto-stitch feature that Photoshop has (I don't know if this is in the free version or other editors).

1. Go to File>Automate>Stitch
2. Open all of your photos in this new window
3. Choose a stitching method. They all give different results so you'll have to play with it to get one you like. Some will skew the final product a lot, and others may drop out several photos
3b. This will take a lot of time and is very memory-intensive. I'd suggest closing all unnecessary programs for this to work the best
4. Sometimes, this is all you'll have to do. However, you may still have to go through and edit out the lines between photos. See step 4 for tips (previous page)

This photo, seen form the beginning, was auto-stitched by Photoshop.

Step 6: Finished

Congratulations! You've just finished your first panorama photo without a wide-angle lens.

If you enjoyed this Instructable, please vote for it in the photos contest.



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    7 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I rarely stitch for panoramas. All I know is Hugin recommended by Flickr, Acropano picked by Giveawayoftheday. And I think hugin is good for professional users, on the contrary Acropano is designed for beginners.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Nice Instructable. I've been putting panoramas together for a while now, and I've been using Hugin, which is free (both in cost and in freedom, as it's open source). Hugin can do auto-stitching, lens correction, and vignetting correction too. The latest versions can do everything almost automatically for you. You still have to take the pictures as you have shown in this Instructable, of course. :)

    You can go to to download or read more about Hugin.

    1 reply

    Windows Live Photo Gallery actually has an excellent Panorama stiching ability.  I was quite impressed with it, and it's free, you should try it out.  Photoshop is too complicated to manually line up more then a 2 photos.  And I never liked the ArkSoft program.