This is my first Instructable (eek!), in which I aim to show you how to easily make jaw-dropping panoramic images, no matter what your level of experience in photography, using your camera, tripod (optional), and some handy open-source software on your Mac or PC.
When we think of panoramic photographs we conjure up images of stretching landscapes or cityscapes, but in reality you can make a panoramic image of any subject, indoor or outdoor.
The basic premise of this technique is to take several shots from side to side, each time moving along but making sure that each subsequent shot has enough of the previous shot in it. Once you have a series of photographs covering an area we will then feed those into the magical (free) software to stitch them all together.
Step 1: Things You Will Need
Camera - Any camera should do, I am using a digital-SLR but you can use any point and click camera or even the camera on your smartphone. The great thing about this is that when we stitch the photos together, the end result will be far larger than the cameras usual image size, so even if your camera isn't great you can still get good results. (Having a remote or a timer on your camera is an advantage too, but don't worry if there isn't.)
Free Stitching Software (Hugin) - This piece of software really is great, and as long as your photos are taken properly it actually does most of the work for you. There are ways to increase accuracy even more if you put in the time but for the purpose of this instructable we will just use the built in wizard. You can download this software from the Hugin Sourceforge website.
A Subject - What you take an image of is entirely up to you, I like to experiment and will share some of my results to show you what can be achieved using this technique.
Tripod (optional)- Having a tripod isn't a necessity and although I think it makes things much easier, you can get away without using it but will have to be more careful.
Step 2: Setting Up Your Shot
However many pictures you will be stitching to make your panorama, making sure you take the initial photographs properly is probably the most important aspect of this process. If the photos are not consistently taken it can cause issues when we come to stitch them together. This technique is really easy but there are a couple of key things to remember.
Keeping your shots straight
To make sure that the final image has as much coverage as possible we need to keep the camera straight, using a tripod makes this as easy as possible as you can pan from left to right on a constant straight line.
If you are shooting in your hands it will help to pick a point of reference towards the edge of the photo on the side you will be moving to for your next shot, this can be a pattern or object that you can easily identify, then when taking the next shot you should make sure that the object is in the same position vertically but on the other side of the image.
The example above shows the 10 shots I used to make a photograph of the Monsal Valley near my home in Derbyshire. If you look carefully you can see that there are plenty of recognisable objects between photos 1 and 2, 2 and 3, and so on...
Tip: For even more coverage and a larger image you can take photos not only on a horizontal plane but vertical too, making a grid of columns and rows. Just remember that you need to cover the entire area and that each image should have common objects/patterns with any image next to or above it.
You will need to maintain the same focus for each image for a clear end result, if you have the option to use manual focus then do it (you can use auto focus for the first shot if you want). If you are using a point and click camera or your phone just be careful that it doesn't change focus too much.
If you are having trouble keeping the focus the same or want to experiment with using different focus on each image go ahead, I have had some interesting results from my own experiments.
Step 3: Sit Back and Let Hugin Do It's Thing.
You have now done the hard part. It's time to set Hugin to work to take the load off.
Hugin works by cleverly analysing your images. If there are common features between two or more images it will recognise them and align the images accordingly, it then stitches them together and will match exposures of multiple photographs to create one seamless final image.
The software is safe to download and available for free on both OSX and Windows, and as far as I can tell it is identical on both platforms. Time to open it up!
1. Loading your images - At the top left of the screen, click "1. Load images…", navigate to the folder of your images and select those you wish to use. Hugin seems to work best when using .jpeg format images. For more advanced users shooting in RAW format, you will want to convert the images before loading them.
2. Change the Lens type to match yours - If you don't know your lens type, use the second option (Panoramic cylindrical).
3. Aligning - Once the images are loaded in, click "2. Align…". Hugin will now run the assistant to align your shots. After this you will see a preview of your panorama, and at this point it might not look like much but it doesn't have to yet.
4. Stitching - All that is left is to click "3. Create panorama…", then in the popup screen change LDR Format from TIFF to JPEG and click OK. You will then be prompted to choose where to save your panorama and once this is chosen, the software will run.
It's as simple as that. All you have to do now is sit back and let Hugin do it's thing. Depending on how many images you are using for your panorama this might take some time. Once the program is finished, navigate to the chosen location and marvel at your handiwork!
Step 4: Vote in the Contest!
This instructable has been entered into The Instructables Photography Tips & Tricks contest. If you found it interesting or helpful in anyway I would very much appreciate it if you could vote for me.
Please give any feedback you may have, It's all new to me!- Jack.