In an era not too long ago, you would need specialized equipment like a fisheye lens and a fair amount of technical experience to capture panoramic photos. Thanks to the DSLR-quality cameras that are built into most of today’s modern smartphones like the Apple iPhone, however, all of this has changed. Now, it’s possible to take stunning panoramic images whenever and wherever you’d like – provided you know exactly what you’re doing for the best results, of course. If you have dreams of showing off those great panoramic photos to all of your friends and family members, you’re going to want to keep a few key things in mind.
What is Panoramic Photography?
Before you can understand how to take great panoramic photos, you must first understand a little bit more about the very specific medium you’ll be working with. Simply put, panoramic photography (also referred to as 360 photography and wide-angle photography) is a technique that captures images horizontally in a format that is much wider than your average picture.
It’s similar in concept to a widescreen movie you might watch on TV – a “full screen” movie would take up your TV’s full view, but a “widescreen” movie would have black bars on the top and bottom that would cause the image to take a much more pronounced, rectangular shape. Panoramic photography is the same idea, only in the world of still photography and not full motion film or video.
Tips and Tricks for Taking Great Panoramic Photos
One of the most important tools that you can have at your side when experimenting with 360 photography isn’t necessarily a $2,000 camera, but an incredibly steady hand. Many consumer-grade cameras (as well as smartphones) essentially “create” a panoramic photo by taking multiple images and piecing them together to form one large one. When you move your iPhone from left to right, the phone’s camera is actually capturing images to match your field of view, piecing them together later.
The issue is that if you don’t have a steady hand, the sections of the picture where one image meets the next will appear blurry or otherwise distorted. Always try to keep your hand from shaking while taking a panoramic photo or, to make things easier, invest in a tripod or similar type of solution.
The next thing you’ll want to do when taking a panoramic photo involves turning off all of the default settings of your camera and adjusting based on the environment you actually find yourself in. This is especially true if you’re taking photos outdoors for a number of reasons.
Consider the example of the autofocus on a DSLR camera, or even on your iPhone’s built-in camera. As you move the camera to capture the desired subjects of the 360 photography, you will probably have various objects entering and exiting the foreground of the image at all times. If you left the autofocus on, the camera would automatically rack focus at multiple parts of the image – causing certain elements to look blurry when they shouldn’t. Turning off the default settings can lead to a higher quality end result.
Finally, never forget that panoramic photos are exactly that – photos. You’re not dealing with video, so anything that is in the frame that moves will likely lead to blurry areas that are best left avoided. If you’re trying to take a panorama of a city street, you might want to wait until traffic dies down or you’ll end up with a lot of blurry spots in your photo that used to be cars. On the other hand, this may be the exact look that you’re going for – leaving certain moving elements in your photos can be a great way to experiment and wind up with something cool, albeit a bit abstract. It all depends on exactly what image you see in your head and how to best capture it on film (or on the SD memory card in your camera, depending on your situation).
How to Print Panoramic Photos
Once you’ve successfully utilized these tips and have finally captured the panoramic masterpiece of your dreams, your next logical step involves taking your image out of the digital world and bringing it into reality: creating panoramic photo prints to call your own.
The important thing to keep in mind here is that because you’re dealing with a frame shape (or “aspect ratio”) that is significantly wider than your average photo, something like photo paper probably isn’t the best option for preserving the natural spectacle of your image for years to come. Printing on canvas is a great way to really do your image justice and selecting the 12-inch x 36-inch size will work exceptionally well in most cases. If 12 x 36 isn’t quite working for the image you’ve captured, however, don’t worry – custom sizes are available for your panoramic photo prints – just select that option at the bottom of the tool: