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Old 02-10-2007, 12:18   #1 (permalink)
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Panoramas How to ?

I've been impressed by the standard of photos in the recent panorama contest .

I've tried doing this myself using my canon 10D. However my problem is when I stitch them together I have used CS2 to do it.

What happens is the sky tones don't always match up. Is this due to the stitching program or how I took the shots. Any clues/tips would be appreciated.
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Old 02-10-2007, 13:12   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Panoramas Howto ?

You should set the camera to manual exposure and manual focus so the settings don't change for each shot (and manual WB if shooting JPEG). Overlap each shot by about a third, and it's best not to use a lens that is too wide-angle to avoid edge distortions.

I don't use Photoshop but there are several stitching programs that do a good job...

Panorama software photo stitcher: Autopano Pro Home - Autopano Pro Website - that costs €99

AutoStitch - that's free!

Canon cameras used to come with Photostitch - not sure if they still do - but I found that the above apps do a slightly better job.

HTH.
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Old 02-10-2007, 13:14   #3 (permalink)
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Re: Panoramas Howto ?

I usually set my exposure and focus manually.

I've no idea how it's "supposed" to be done but I have my camera metering set to "spot" and I'm in Aperture Priority mode.

I point at the brightest part of my subject, then point at the darkest. I take an average of the two values then set my shutter speed to the nearest point to that result.

I bracket my pano's btw. 2 stops.

Next is to set the focus point (I use AF then switch to manual and don't touch the focus again)


Then it's just a matter of shooting away.

My viewfinder has a central "square" I use this to align each of my groups of 3 shots.

hth.
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Old 02-10-2007, 13:15   #4 (permalink)
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Re: Panoramas Howto ?

I've not done many panos, but I have seen it said that manual mode should be used to reduce sky differences.

I don't think you can ever get them completely even because there are tonal differences depending on the angle to the sun, but using manual exposure will minimise the 'steps'.
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Old 02-10-2007, 13:41   #5 (permalink)
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Re: Panoramas Howto ?

Quote:
Originally Posted by orangepeel View Post
I point at the brightest part of my subject, then point at the darkest. I take an average of the two values then set my shutter speed to the nearest point to that result.
Surely you'll get burned highlights if you go for the average? I find brightest part of pano and set manual exposure to that. Manual focus.

Process using the same setting for each (I always shoot in RAW). Stitch TIFFs with Realviz
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Old 02-10-2007, 13:48   #6 (permalink)
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Re: Panoramas Howto ?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Markulous View Post
Surely you'll get burned highlights if you go for the average?
ahem...

Quote:
Originally Posted by orangepeel View Post
I bracket my pano's btw. 2 stops.
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Old 02-10-2007, 13:53   #7 (permalink)
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Re: Panoramas Howto ?

RTFM? OK!
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Old 02-10-2007, 15:53   #8 (permalink)
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Re: Panoramas Howto ?

Thanks I shall try the suggestions. I had set the focus and not moved it. That I assume is not a problem. Not sure if I had set the exposure manually which could be the problem ( I'll bracket as well).

I normally take in RAW format so the white balance should not be an issue I think. I guess when converting the RAW I should use the default setting or apply the same to all pictures ?

As the camera was second hand I have no supplied software with it. I'll try the other stitching programs out with my next try.

Thanks for all the tips.
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Old 02-10-2007, 16:02   #9 (permalink)
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Re: Panoramas Howto ?

Quote:
Originally Posted by chrisa View Post
I guess when converting the RAW I should use the default setting or apply the same to all pictures ?
I dunno what you use but Adobe Camera Raw allows you to apply the same "processing" to all the files you open.
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Old 02-10-2007, 16:10   #10 (permalink)
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Re: Panoramas Howto ?

Quote:
Originally Posted by orangepeel View Post
I dunno what you use but Adobe Camera Raw allows you to apply the same "processing" to all the files you open.
Yep that is what I use and meant by the same.
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Old 02-10-2007, 16:27   #11 (permalink)
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Re: Panoramas Howto ?

Firstly as others suggest, it is best to use manual exposure to help the matching. However, you also need to be aware that Adobe have significantly improved the Panoramic software in CS3. It matches the the different exposures and colour balance as well as stitching rather better than previously.

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Old 02-10-2007, 20:13   #12 (permalink)
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Re: Panoramas Howto ?

Wide-angle lenses will accentuate the tonal problem with skies, since they take in so much sky, as often the difference in tone from nearest the Sun to the other side can be quite large. Focal lengths from around 35mm upward should be no problem.

Also, it is usually better to make all the shots portrait format (this also helps the sky issue). Although this requires more images for the pano you won't end up with a veeerrry long but not very tall image (as I did on my first attempt some years back).

Bracketing each shot, as suggested above, and possibly doing some pre-stitching adjustments to individual images is good as it may help the stitching program do a better job.

Remember that it is normal for the exposure to require change as you move from directly into the Sun to directly away from it. If you want to include the Sun you may want to consider doing a composite (or HDR) image of the highest contrast views i.e. those into the light.

Just a few suggestions for possibly improving the final result and overcoming problems.

Cheers

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Old 03-10-2007, 00:21   #13 (permalink)
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Re: Panoramas How to ?

Also, when bracketing, it's important to keep the aperture constant, to maintain continuity of DoF thru'out the shots. So if you're using manual exposure, remember to vary the shutter speed for the bracketed shots, not the aperture; if you're using aperture priority, the camera will obviously automatically adjust the shutter speed.

The same care is needed to ensure that the same point of sharp focus is used across the frames for a smooth completed image, i.e. I've seen some pano's where the DoF has shifted position across a pano, making the point of sharp focus along the z-axis uneven across the completed image, e.g. the first frame (LHS of pano) might be focused on a point which is, say, 20m away, but by the last frame (RHS of pano) the point of sharp focus is further back (or forward) between the FG + BG. I've also seen some pano's where the point of sharp focus goes back + forth along the pano, which would be quite an easy mistake to make if you weren't paying attention. Hope that makes sense (I know what I mean just not sure I've explained it so anyone else does LOL)

I wouldn't say that it's always 100% safe to leave the exposure at the same setting for all frames, if the weather is anything but a cloudless sunny day (boring sky tho'), because with all that bracketing, framing + re-framing going on, the light is very likely to change between shots, so I would definitely meter for exposure for each frame across the pano.

PS Sorry if I've repeated what anyone/everyone has already said, but I'm tired + my brain hurts + I'm off to get some shut-eye
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Old 03-10-2007, 02:08   #14 (permalink)
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Re: Panoramas How to ?

The way I've done it is to take the photos in RAW, then when I import them into Elements, I use the option to keep each photo as its own layer. I then see which sky exposure I like the best, then tweak each individual layer's light settings to match each other. If necessary, I make the photos that are getting in the way invisible.

That's how I managed my shuttle picture for the contest. For some of my rocket launch shots parts of the scenery are taken ahead of time and lightened/darkened to match the pictures at lift-off.
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Old 03-10-2007, 10:34   #15 (permalink)
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Re: Panoramas How to ?

I am going to jump in here and offer some advice based on my experience. Reading some of the answers above tells me that some people have been lucky with their pano's as the techniques they are advising is incorrect and will not work for all situations. If you wish to learn how to get good, consistent results in all circumstances then it better to learn the correct techniques from the start.

First of all you'll need to do a little bit of research first to know the whole process. 90% of panoramic photography is knowing the correct settings for your equipment and having the right software to allow you to complete the job. Once you have the correct settings, all you have to do is set up your equipment and take the required set of shots.

The things you'll need to know are the hyper focal distance for your lens at a certain F stop. Usually using around f11 for landscapes will give you a good depth of field. The hyper focal distance tells you the setting you should use to give you the correct focus both in front and behind the subject. Once you know this you simply set the lens to that distance manually and ensure you don't touch it again during that shoot. There is a great online tool that will provide the correct setting for any camera, lens, fstop, distance combination..see the links lower down.

The next thing you need to do is decide how to tackle the different lighting that you get accross a wide scene. This is often the biggest problem for panoramic as you may well have to shoot directly into the sun in one shot while you could be shooting into a dark area for another...usually the camera would alter the settings for this but if you do that in panoramic photography each frame could be exposed completely differently and you would end up with a poor quality blending when you come to stick the shots together.

The correct way to attack this issue is to take several light readings from different parts of the scene and then dial in the settings for the brightest. If you have blown highlights they can never be recovered but shadow detail loss is usually more acceptable. If you shoot in Raw you have a further advantage as it allows for roughly +/-2 stops adjustment during processing. This can prevent/negates the need to bracket your shots The technique I have found the easiest and most effective is to shoot in raw, take the readings from the scene and set my camera to overexpose by 1.5 stops from the brightest setting. During processing I process all photos 3 times...once at 1.5 stops over, once at the correct settings and once at 1.5 stop under. This gives me the tonal range to include shadow detail and not burn out the highlights. The issue with this method is that you have to process three complete panoramics and then blend them to get quality results...thats where the correct software comes into place.

For Raw file processing I use Lightroom..it allows me to process batches of shots by applying certain settings..so producing three lots of differently exposed shots is painless and easy.

Then for combining and stitching I use PTgui, this is a specific program designed to do panoramics, not only will it join, blend, tilt, shift, distort and alter both the yaw and pitch of the photos but it does it all automatically and still allows you to fine tune every single reference point on any single or group of shots. This gives far more control than Photoshop or the other programs that have been mentioned above already. The other important function PTgui offers is that you can save a 'job' as a template and then apply it to another set of shots...this is very important as if you have the same scene shot at different exposures (processed from your raw files) you only have to process it once and then you can apply the same template to the other sets of images..thus giving you three (or more) identical panos that you can then combine to get the full tonal range from the scene. Inciodentally I will also add that the settings in PT GUI are geared in such a way that it can cope easily with wide angle lenses too..down to 10 mm and has no problems blending the images from shoots using that equipment.

The last stage is then to blend the three (or more) groups of shots into one that has the full tonal range. this can be done manually in a program such as Photoshop, or you can try the automated option that is there in the later versions (I have to say that my results with the automated version have been poor). The best way is to use another software package designed specifically for this task though..Photomatix. I'll not go into detail here as we already have a great tutorial showing how to use it and what its capable off which was kindly provided by 'GainfulShrimp'

Ok so a quick summary...
  • Find the correct hyperfocal distance for your setup.
  • Take light readings from the whole scene.
  • Put the camera into full manual mode.
  • Set the aperture, shutter speed and focal distance manually (ensure that you do not blow the highlights)
  • Work of a tripod.
  • Overlap each shot by about a 3rd.
  • Process your shots from raw files at least three times to get over/correct/under exposed results.
  • Make three (or more) complete panos one for each over/correct/under expossed set of shots.
  • Overlay and blend the results together to 'recover' the shadows and blown highlights.


Tools and links to help you...

Hyperfocal Distance calculator: DOF Master
PTgui: Photo stitching software 360 degree Panorama image software - PTGui
Photomatix: HDR photo software & plugin - Tone Mapping, Exposure Blending & HDR Imaging for photography
Photomatix tutorial: Pixalo HDR for beginners
My review of a dedicated panoramic tripod head (also includes some information on shooting panos and some examples of my work):Pano Guide
My personal panoramic website : Pictualis360

Hopefully that will clear up some of the points and give you a good base from which to learn. If you don't understand anything I written or have more questions, just ask
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Old 03-10-2007, 11:39   #16 (permalink)
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Re: Panoramas How to ?

Thanks everyone for their tips.

I'll give them a go next outing. Big thanks to Steve for such an in depth howto and the links. Also looked at your QT images on your site, quite simply stunning.

Last edited by chrisa; 03-10-2007 at 12:04.
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