ABOVE - Broken down into 6 separate images - and presented in a complete image - the true nature of these photos is too complex for display here - they are too large. The original panorama file is 1.95GB in size (46,500 by 1,700 pixels at 350dpi - 155 x 5.6 inches - printed this image is 13 feet long) - the version of this image I've presented here is 23,000 by 850 pixels at 150dpi - and is about 500MB. 360° panorama photos are in many ways completely unusable but they still possess an intriguing challenge to the photographer who wants to attempt shooting them.
Long before the brilliant "Panorama" photo feature of my Samsung Galaxy S5 - where you can create some pretty impressive 360° photos with the press of a button and a little patience in figuring out how to hold the camera as you turn a full circle to capture the image; I was in Nassau, The Bahamas, shooting a corporate event and on my day off I found myself on top of an old fort on the highest point of the island with a pretty much unobstructed view of the island 360°. What my Galaxy S5 can't capture is the exacting high-definition - 21.4 megapixel clarity that my Canon 5D MKII and 50mm f/1.4 lens could capture. This panorama is stitched together using 24 full frame, full 350dpi resolution images; the total final uncompressed image is 1.85GB in size.
What I've posted here is a 150dpi - resized and resampled image that can be viewed without eating up your device's memory.
ABOVE - In the finished panorama image the section of the photo with the docked cruise ships and the single ship heading to sea consists of 4 separate images. These individual images are above.
First thing to consider in shooting a panorama image using multiple single images stitched together is going to be focal length. 50mm lenses in full-frame 35mm format (Nikon calls this FX Format) are the closest approximation to what the human eye sees; 46° of field of view. These lenses will offer the least amount of visual distortion along the edges - which is important when stitching the images together.
When shooting a panorama with a DSLR using single frames I like to have plenty of overlap for each section. This assists in creating more opportunities to connect the photos together creating seamless transitions between each.
ABOVE - The 4 individual photos when stitched together will look like this. Because lenses do not allow as much light into their barrels along their outside edge, a phenomenon called vignetting (where darkening along the edge of the image) occurs. Vignetting is a very difficult issue to deal with across 24 images which are stitched together. In the image above you can see where the stitches are clearly visible because the sky is darker along the stitch due to the vignetting of the lens.
Other than the vignetting, using the 50mm lens creates a near perfect stitch with zero distortion along the stitch line.
SPECIAL NOTE - I shot these images hand-held. This is VERY difficult to do - but I spend so much time taking photos it is something that I am able to do whereas someone who doesn't spend as much time with their camera might have a lot more difficulty keeping the horizon in the same place through each image. I STRONGLY RECOMMEND using a tripod to shoot panoramas. BELOW - IF you feel that you really want to shoot panoramas on a regular basis - look into investing in a PANORAMA HEAD - a tripod head specifically designed to shoot panorama images (these heads were originally designed for medium and larger format cameras but can be used with 35mm, DSLR, and smaller digital cameras.
BELOW - Once you are sure that your stitches are where you want them to be and they match seamlessly, you can start work blending the areas of the seam where vignetting has caused a mismatch in color.
Once you color correct and adjust the stitched photos to where they are optimal - you may see that the vignetting is not as bad as before - but is still noticeable. This is where I recommend creating a mask of the sky in Photoshop and then adding a new gradient layer for the sky where the color is uniform across the entire panorama. BELOW - I will first create a new layer - a copy of my main working layer - and bring up the contrast and saturation so that the sky is easy to capture using the "MAGIC WAND" - you want good separation between the land and the sky. ONCE THE SKY IS MASKED - Use the "EYEDROPPER" tool to sample the lightest color of blue in the sky and the then the darkest - use these colors to create the gradient in your new "sky" layer above your working layer - with the lightest at the bottom and the darkest at the top.
BELOW - Once you've done this you can drop the high-contrast layer - or simply make it invisible - and the new sky layer should blend perfectly with your main (color corrected) working layer.
You may have to do some fine detail work blending around clouds and around items like radio towers and cell towers which extend high into the sky, but the overall finished panorama will not show vignette seams and should be stitched well enough that even when blown up to show high amounts of detail the viewer should have a hard time figuring out where the seams are located. This method is time consuming and relatively difficult - but well worth it if you want a perfectly stitched high-detail, high-quality panorama image.
© Copyright 2015, Jon Patrick Hyde, All Rights Reserved.