How panoramic shaped photographs are created


Let's consider three different ways a panoramic shaped photograph can be created.


The second way is to use a specialized panoramic camera. I use Fuji professional 6x17cm panorama cameras for scenes that have motion going on ... like the wave washing onto the beach (shown below). I find that trying to create this type of image by "stitching" together 5 or 6 images that were taken a second or two apart to be difficult. Often subjects like moving waves just don't line up right when trying to assemble a panorama from multiple images.. The 6x17 film camera allows me to capture the entire panoramic image with a single "click" of the shutter.


A panoramic image assembled using five images created using a medium format digital camera is going to have more resolution and detail than a panoramic image stitched together using images from a smaller sensor camera. The better the quality of the individual images ... the better the quality of the "stitched" panoramic for making large artwork

The first way is to take 5 or 6 side-by-side photographs of a scene (allowing for about a 20% overlap on each side) and assemble or "stitch" the multiple images together using a program like Adobe Photoshop (or using specialized software programs designed just for this purpose like PTGui Pro or Autopano Giga). This technique works quite well for scenes that do not have a lot of motion going on. The limiting factor for making a large photo mural from a "stitched panoramic" image would be the overall quality of camera and lens used to create the individual image components.


A 6x17 panoramic film camera produces a film transparency that is 6x17cm ( 2 1/4 x 6 3/4 inches) in size. You can see below how a 6x17cm transparency compares in size with a standard 35mm format image. We find that a 6x17cm transparency can be scanned to a 800 MB (16 bit) digital file before the film grain starts to become a factor.


The third way is by simply cropping a standard 35mm format image into a panoramic shape utilizing just a portion of the original photograph. You can see that the tropical beach image (shown below) does crop well as a panoramic shaped photograph. And it would look great on your computer screen, on a web page, or as a 10x30 inch photograph on your wall. However, if we were to enlarge this cropped 35mm format image enough to print a 8x24 foot wall mural ... I believe you would find the large mural would look soft and fuzzy. (this is a good quality for kittens, but not for large wall murals)

The problem is, the original 35mm format image is a considerably smaller digital file to begin with. Then we are only utilizing about 1/2 of that original image when we crop it into a panoramic shaped image. For example, if the original photograph was created using a 10 MP digital camera, we would actually be using less than a 5 MP digital file to make a 8x24 foot mural.

There are specialized software programs that can be used to enlarge or "rez up" digital files. However, there are limits to how many pixels can be added to an image before it becomes soft and pixelated.

How do I create my panoramic images ?

I use both the first and second techniques to create our panoramic images.

To capture a high resolution panoramic image in one exposure (using specialized panoramic film cameras) is still my first choice when photographing subjects that have fluid or moving elements.

When photographing a scene that has limited motion going on, I often create a series of six to twenty vertical digital images and later stitch and blend them together back in the studio.

Especially for wide vistas, where I may be able to create a MegaPan (an image with 5:1, 6:1 or even 8:1 image ratios). I currently use a Hasselblad medium format digital camera when creating digital "stitched" panoramic images for maximum image resolution.


According to Wikipedia ... Panoramic photography is a technique of photography, using specialized equipment or software, that captures images with elongated fields of view. It is sometimes known as wide format photography. The term has also been applied to a photograph that is cropped to a relatively wide aspect ratio. An image showing a field of view approximating, or greater than, that of the human eye ( about 160 degrees by 75 degrees may be termed panoramic. This generally means it has an aspect ratio of 2:1 or larger, the image being at least twice as wide as it is high.

What is the "big deal" about original high resolution panoramic images?  And do they really make a difference? Watch our short video


All text and photographs are © David Lawrence and Prime Images, Inc.

item9 item8 item7 item6 item5 item4 item3 item2 item1