Trying to capture the vastness of landscape or cityscape in a single shot with your digital camera can be a challenge. Although many point-and-shoot digital cameras offer a panorama mode, the results of this are often less than satisfactory – at worst many cameras simply trim the top and bottom off a standard-size photo to create a false panoramic scene.
But you don’t have to buy expensive specialist equipment or use professional photography techniques to create stunning panoramic shots. Take a series of overlapping shots as you pan your digital camera across a scene, then stitch the photos together later using photo-editing software on your computer to create a super-wide photo. Most photo-editing software offers panorama creation tools. In this example, we’ve used Microsoft Windows Photo Gallery. You can download this free photo editor from Microsoft’s website.
Panoramic shots work best with static scenes. Too much movement in your shots – whether from people, cars or other moving objects – can result in blurry spots on the finished panorama where areas in the photos didn’t quite match. Creating panoramas of the beach or the seafront, for example, can be particularly tricky, as the movement of the waves makes it hard for the panorama software to successfully stitch together the photos.
Taking your photos
Step 1 Ensure that your photos will work when creating a panoramic shot. Take a series of photos from the same spot while slowly panning the camera. Make sure that the edge of each photo overlaps the next by at least a quarter as this will help Photo Gallery join them together correctly. For the best results, use a tripod to keep the camera level as you take your photos.
Step 2 If possible, turn off your camera’s autofocus, autoexposure and auto-white balance, and set these manually instead. This stops the camera from automatically adjusting these settings for each individual shot of the panorama as it would normally. Keep focus, exposure and white balance the same for every shot as this will help avoid colour and brightness shifts appearing on the panorama when it’s stitched together.
Open Photo Gallery
Step 3 Photo Gallery isn’t pre-installed with Windows, but you can download it for free from http://download.live.com/photogallery. Click Download now and then run the file that downloaded. Select Photo Gallery or the entire suite of free Windows Essential programs and click Install, following the steps onscreen. Then, click the Start button, All Programs and Photo Gallery to launch the photo editor.
Step 4 Transfer your photos to your computer’s Picture folder using Windows’ Import Pictures and Video program. Alternatively, import your photos directly from within Photo Gallery by clicking Import on the Home tab and then selecting your camera and the photos to be imported.
Step 5 Once the photos are viewable in Photo Gallery, select two or more shots to use in your panorama by clicking the checkbox that appears when you hover your cursor over a photo.
Stitching the panorama
Step 6 Once you’ve selected the photos you want to use, click the Create tab on the Ribbon and click Panorama. Photo Gallery will begin stitching together the selected photos into one panoramic photo. This may take a few minutes depending on how many photos you’ve used, their file size and the speed of your computer.
Step 7 When the stitching process is complete, you’ll be asked to save the panoramic shot. Type a name for the panorama and choose a location for the saved file, then click Save. By default, the panorama will be saved as a JPG, but you can change this to another image type . The completed panoramic shot will open automatically once saved.
Edit your panorama
Step 8 When viewing your panorama, you may see some black areas around the edges of stitched image. This is the result of variations in original photos’ composition. You can remove these black areas by cropping the photo. Click Fix on the Ribbon, and then click Crop Photo. Drag the edges of the box that appears to encompass as much of the panorama as possible but without the black areas. Click Crop again to apply the crop.
While most panoramas are horizontal in composition, vertical panoramic shots can be very effective – great for capturing the towering majestic of mountains, waterfalls, trees or skyscrapers. The same principles apply as with horizontal panoramas. You can either turn the camera on its side when you shoot your scenes or keep it in a horizontal orientation. Photo Gallery will analyse the shots you’ve selected, correctly stitching them together to form a vertical panorama.