NBT photo guide 3: Panoramas
I’m a big fan of stitched-together panorama photos. Aside from being able to capture nice landscapes into single photos you can also get resolutions that you wouldn’t normally get. There are a lot of options for panorama software for the iPhone, but those are of course limited by the quality of the built in camera. As Allen just wrote, I see limited uses of such cameras in tablets, and even in smartphones they’re only good for situations where you don’t have anything else. However if you have the iPad, you can easily pair it with a real camera- and that gives panorama apps new uses altogther.
As I said there are many apps out there that can stitch together panoramas, but my favorite is the $1.99 AutoStitch (normally $2.99). It has always given my good results without getting lost when stitching together pictures with few unique details to go by, something that I’ve had issues with on certain PC programs. It also has the ability to output 18 megapixel photos, which is a nice size that balances file size, performance hog and details nicely. I’ve done a few panoramas using Microsoft ICE on my PC and that program can output images that are more than a hundred megapixels, though it hogs the computer both when rendering the picture and when displaying it. For the record, to display 100 megapixels in full size you’d need 50 1080p monitors or about 130 iPads.
The video below shows the entire process of creating a panorama photo in AutoStitch by stitching together photos from my DSLR camera, except for the part where I actually shot the original photos. This was just a quick demo so it’s not the best looking panorama out there, but it will give you an idea of how things work. When shooting source photos for photos like these, there are a few things to remember.
First off, manual shooting is the best way to go as otherwise the camera might change settings too much from one picture to the other and give you parts of the final image where everything is too dark or too light. In the demo photo I shot directly towards the sun which is never good, and since I used manual settings optimized for a part of the view that was not towards the sun, the resulting panorama becomes brighter and brighter as you get close to pointing towards the sun. Ideally you would try to avoid such scenarios altogether. You could also try to create HDR photos to make up for these situations but if you’re that advanced you’re probably using something like Adobe Bridge to stitch photos and not an iPad app. This method is more for average users who just want to create nice looking panoramas directly on the iPad without too much effort.
You do need to remember to overlap photos though, so that you see at least 30% of the previous photo for each new one. In this case I did a wide angle panorama and so the result was a distorted building in front of me because the viewing angle shifted too much for each photo. The further away the objects in your photo are, the less problems you’ll have with this effect. Also, you don’t need to do 1D panoramas (overlapping pictures in one direction), you can easily create panoramas where you have both left/right movement and up/down movement. They don’t have to be in order, the software will figure out the pieces (unless they’re too generic, like pictures of sky only).
This is another photo app I like a lot on the iPad, and another reason to get the Apple Camera Connection Kit. Any photo editing on the iPad is about easy access for consumers who don’t like to spend hours editing photos, and with an app like this and a 3G iPad you can upload panorama images to the web in 5 minutes from the top of a mountain if you want.