I was invited to speak to the Dallas Camera Club last night. I was really amazed to see almost 60 people attending the meeting. The DCC has been around for 75 years and has a very active calendar of meetings, competitions and field trips.They are a great group.
I spent about an hour talking about panoramic images, discussing why you’d want to shoot them, how to make them and then looking at the amazing software available to automatically stitch several images together into a seamless photo. I’ve been using AutoPano Pro for a few years and just love it. There are dozens of programs out there, many of them free or inexpensive. Panorama Tools has been around for a long time and has some great front ends like PT GUI. If you have Photoshop CS4, you already own a great stitching program, but I still far prefer AutoPano for its flexibility and ability to detect and extract panos from a folder of images.
I think panoramas are one of the coolest and most satisfying techniques to come out of digital photography. The images are wide format, more closely matching our natural field of view. You can create big impressive prints with even a low resolution pocket camera since the resolution of each photo is added together into the stitched final image. They look beautiful hanging on a wall and are easy to print at home. Watching the software assemble the images is really amazing.
At the meeting I showed some panoramic sequences from recent travels. I also did a live demo, shooting hand held with a little Pentax pocket camera and dragging the images into the AutoPano software.
These are the raw shots:
This is the result of the panorama stitch, processed using the “Spherical Projection” setting. This has the best relationship of sizes of the people in the room, but the most pronounced curvature of tables, which were actually in straight, parallel rows. This is what the shot would look like if taken with a scanning film camera like the Widelux or Horizon:
The same panorama, using the “Planar Projection” setting. The tables look better, but the people at the edges are stretched, as they would be using a traditional super wide angle lens:
This is the same Planar projection as above, but taken into Photoshop for some warping. I did a Select All, used Transform:Warp, and pulled in the sides. There is less of a stretched feel, but you start to loose the wide format of the panorama:
I highly recommend shooting some panoramas. With AutoPano, and others, you can shoot multi-row panos, and even shoot any group of images covering a subject, without them having to be aligned, level – or even all horizontal or all vertical, as long as there is overlap in the images the software will find the pano in there.