Monday, May 4, 2009

Panos Really Aren't That Hard

Any time you read articles about doing panoramas you typically see a long rant about needing a special attachment for your tripod. Rubbish. Another misconception is that you need to fix your F-stop and shutter speed to get a good exposure for the highlights. Bull! The pano that goes along with this post was taken along the Blue Ridge Parkway, handheld, aperture priority and made by twisting my body. I picked out "set points" to insure enough overlap for Adobe(r) Photoshop(tm) CS4 to do it's thing, but the key is to "see" the shot before hitting the shutter release. I've got a half dozen different tripods and a remote release for the shutter. With this sort of shot, neither is needed. The "Photomerge" function in PS CS 3 - 4 or in PS Elements 7 does an absolutely phenomenal job piecing images together, creating masks for each layer and blending the shading together.
Very often you'll see authors saying the "best" results come from using a specific piece of software. Photoshop is the only piece of software needed. You can do a straight pano, like the one on this post. You can also do a matrix type of pano, where you take a series of shots both across and up and down. As long as you have enough overlap you're home free.
The files created for any pano can be huge. This image started out as RAW files, merged into the pano, cropped to the final size, "finished" in PS and saved as both a PSD and JPEG files. The JPEG was 46 MB. The PSD was a couple hundred MB.
The biggest thing preventing most folks from doing panos is not trying. Next time you're out shooting, twist your body and take a couple of snaps. There's a couple of tricks for remembering where your pano sequence starts and stops. Shooting a shot of one finger before the start and two after the last shot (Scott Kelby) or shooting a pointed finger to the right before and to the left after (Moose Peterson) are two common methods.