Creating panoramic images is not a trivial thing and learning how to do it well is not easy. There are many different solutions, some require special lenses, others are software based. Wide angle lenses have been in many photographers’ bags for decades. They allow to take a panoramic photograph ready to print once downloaded. However, many photographers do not have one of those and majority of amateurs do not have one either.
So what can they do? Taking a series of images partly overlapping is the solution, even photos taken with a wide angle lens can be stitched together. Such series of images has to be then processed to create one single image. This is done with a software tool. One of the best tools I have used for this purpose is hugin software. I do not remember when I started using it but it was still on my old MacBook Pro. Now I use it on Windows 10 platform. It allows you to stitch horizontal and vertical panoramas, adjust their sizes and composition.
The user interface is available on three different levels: simple, advanced and expert. You can also switch between the interfaces as I frequently do while running the program.
I have seen opinions that the software is not great for beginners but I did not find it difficult at all to use. The user interface is not what many people are used to and may seem complicated or difficult but it really is very easy to use. Help content is great and can guide you through all the aspects of creating a panorama.
How to create a panorama?
- Export your images in jpeg format from Adobe Lightroom or another program. Additionally, I save my images for making panoramas in a separate folder to make them easy to find.
- Load your images and simple interface is the easiest way to get this done, especially when you are starting with the software.
- Order of images does not really matter for most part but I like keeping them in a direction from left to right. The first image you import will be called anchor image to which the next one will be compared, so the best practice is to have one of the edge images (left or right) as anchor ones. You can change the anchor image after import but that is an extra step.
- The next step is to let the software align your images, if there is a good overlap between them, using ALIGN function directly in the simple interface is going to do the trick. You can also select the type of lens you are using or projection you want to use but it is not critical to do it at this stage. You can also inspect the connection points between images, seen in the lower image as colored squares with numbers. If you need to manually assign connection points it will take a little bit of time and effort. I had very few images which needed this kind of adjustment. If there is an alignment problem check how the software is aligning the images.
- Once the panorama was created, canvas size can be adjusted and an image can be cropped. I usually adjust it to an optimal size, but you can choose any size. Composition can be additionally altered using golden ratio, rule of thirds or diagonals, seen as very light yellow lines in the bottom image of the bridge panorama.
- Each time you create a panorama, software will save a project which can be later re-opened in hugin software.
- If you continue working then with a second image set, you will need to remove the current images from the project and add new ones. However, when the software saves the new project you need to check the file name as it tends to save it with the same file name as the previous one.
- Most panoramas we create are usually horizontal and if you are attempting to do a vertical one, there will be a need to adjust the mode for matching points from normal to vertical. You can see a vertical panorama of Hallgrimskirkja.
Images created can be used directly or can be imported into another software for some additional processing. hugin is a great little software that does a perfect job. Obviously if there are no adequate overlap points it may struggle to join images and you may need to edit points by hand.
One thing that you need to remember is that if your images have very different light the final panorama might look strange. One solution I found was to actually ensure the correct exposure when taking pictures. It is by far the best way to get matching or gradient images. Light adjustment in software like Adobe Lightroom is a much less preferable solution as it can create artifacts and unnatural effects across the panorama. And if you want to make changes to the whole image, it is best to do them once you created and imported panorama back into Adobe Lightroom.