Panoramic Photography Tutorial

I wrote this tutorial for those who want to learn about panoramic photography and how to photograph and stitch panoramas using a point and shoot or DSLR camera. The technique consists of two parts – photographing a scene using a camera and then using special software to align and stitch those images together to form a single panoramic image. I will go over both and will show you how to create stunning panoramic images of any subject, including landscapes.

Dead Horse Point Panorama at Sunrise

NIKON D700 @ 28mm, ISO 200, 1/10, f/8.0

Have you had a situation before, where you stood on top of a mountain or some sort of outlook and enjoyed a beautiful view that seemed to span from far left to far right, making you move your head just to see everything? If you have had one of those moments, I am sure you really wished that you could capture the beauty with your digital camera. While some of the modern cameras have video recording capabilities and you could certainly capture the whole scene through video, what if you wanted to print it out? The good news is that the technology today allows us to capture such scenes through a panoramic photography technique.

1) What is Panoramic Photography?

Panoramic photography, also known as wide format photography, is a special technique that stitches multiple images from the same camera together to form a single, wide photograph (vertical or horizontal). The term “panorama” literally means “all sight” in Greek and it first originated from painters that wanted to capture a wide view of a landscape, not just a certain part of it. The first panoramic photographs were made by simply aligning printed versions of film, which did not turn out very well, because it was close to impossible to perfectly align photographs. With the invention of personal computing, advancements in computer software and digital photography, it is now much easier to stitch digital images together using specialized software. In fact, using a proper photography technique and panoramic equipment, it is now possible to create near-perfect panoramas at extremely high resolutions. Some photographers even stitch hundreds of high resolution images to create gargantuan “gigapixel” panoramas. Today, digital panoramic photography is quite popular and common not only among landscape photographers, but also among architectural and cityscape photographers.

Sand Dune Panorama #5

NIKON D700 @ 50mm, ISO 400, 1/200, f/10.0

Panoramic Photography can get quite complex and expensive, depending on what you are trying to do. For example, creating panoramic images in architectural photography requires camera and lens to be properly calibrated on special panoramic equipment to prevent curved lines, distortions and improper stitches of close objects. At the same time, you can successfully take great landscape panoramic images without investing on any camera equipment, as long as you know how to do it right. In this article, I will primarily focus on taking panoramic images either hand-held or with a tripod, without spending on any other equipment.

2) Types of Panoramas

While the word “panorama” automatically assumes that it will be a wide horizontal or vertical image, in my opinion, it does not necessarily have to be. If I stitch several images together and it turns out to be a square image, I still consider it to be a high resolution panoramic image. Here is how I define panoramic images:

1) Wide angle panoramas – anything that looks like a wide angle photograph, which covers less than 180 degrees, whether horizontal or vertical. Wide angle panoramas can even look like regular images, except they are stitched from several photographs and therefore would have more resolution.

Yosemite Panorama

NIKON D700 @ 24mm, ISO 200, 1/160, f/8.0

2) 180 degree panoramas – panoramas that cover 180 degrees from left to right. These types of panoramas look very wide, covering a large area.

Zabriskie Point at Sunrise

NIKON D700 @ 35mm, ISO 200, 1/50, f/10.0

3) 360 degree panoramas – panoramas that cover up to 360 degrees. These panoramas look extremely wide and they cover the whole scene in a single, super wide image.

360 Degree Panorama

4) Spherical panoramas – also known as “planets”. These are 360 degree panoramas that are converted to a square spherical image using a special post-processing technique.

Spherical Panorama

All of the above panoramas can either be photographed in a single row (meaning one row of vertical or horizontal images) or multiple rows (higher focal length is often used to yield much higher resolutions. Multi-row panoramas often require special panoramic equipment).

3) How to Photograph Panoramas

Let’s now get to the meat – how do you capture panoramic images that will be used to create a panorama? There are two ways to capture panoramic images:

  1. Taking horizontal shots – an easy method for quick panoramas, where resolution is not important. Here are two sample horizontal shots:
    Horizontal Images

    And here is the final stitched panorama (click here for larger version):

    Delicate Arch Horizontal Panorama

    NIKON D700 @ 35mm, ISO 200, 1/250, f/8.0

  2. Taking vertical shots – a preferred way to capture panoramas. Vertical images capture more of the sky and ground and yield higher resolution panoramas compared to horizontal ones. Here are four vertical shots:
    Vertical Images

    And here is the final stitched panorama:

    Delicate Arch Vertical Panorama

    NIKON D700 @ 35mm, ISO 200, 1/250, f/8.0

I personally try to avoid shooting horizontally, because I lose too much resolution due to some cropping that is required after the panorama is stitched by software. Vertical panoramas are much better in that regard and they always yield more resolution than horizontal panoramas.

As you can see from the above sample images, the shots I took overlap each other by approximately 50%. In order for any program to be able stitch multiple images together, the images have to overlap each other by a certain margin, so that alignment points are properly identified. The alignment points serve as flags for the stitching algorithm that seamlessly merges the images and cuts out the rest of the image. The overlap margin is a subject of opinion and while some people recommend 20-30% overlap, I personally do it by about 50% (see why below).

3.1) Camera Equipment

  1. Digital Camera – as far as the camera itself, any camera should work, as long as the exposure (aperture, shutter speed and ISO) can be locked. Ideally, you want a digital camera that can shoot in full Manual mode (preferably a DSLR).
  2. Lens – I find zoom lenses to be the most useful for panoramic photography. You can certainly photograph panoramas with fixed/prime lenses, but being able to zoom in and out will give you more options and versatility, especially in difficult conditions where your movements are limited. If you have a DSLR, any wide zoom lens such as Nikon 18-55mm or Nikon 18-200mm should work perfectly fine. I personally use the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G lens for most of my panoramas and I have been very happy with the results.
  3. Lens Filters – I recommend taking filters off your lens while shooting panoramas. It is OK to keep a clear filter on, as long as it is not introducing any vignetting to your images on the wide end. Definitely remove a circular polarizer if you have one mounted on your lens, because it will screw up your sky. Here is how bad it can get:

    Circular Polarizer Mess

  4. Tripod – a tripod is optional, but highly recommended for best results. Any sturdy tripod should work, but make sure that the head is flexible enough for you to be able to pan from left to right with ease. See my “how to choose and buy a tripod” article if you want to buy a tripod for your DSLR.
  5. Cable Release – optional, but recommended for capturing shake-free images.
  6. Panoramic Setup – a full panoramic setup is ideal for best results, but it is very expensive ($500+). Not recommended for beginners due to complexity of use, but a must-have for professionals that want to sell their images.

3.2) Camera Settings

Before you start taking panoramic images, you have to change some of the settings on your camera. Here is what I recommend to set in your camera:

  • Shoot in “Manual” mode – the most important thing in panoramas is consistency of exposures. It is imperative that no matter how bright or dark parts of the scene might be, your images must have the same exposure. If your camera allows locking exposure, you can certainly shoot in other modes, but I suggest to shoot in Manual mode to prevent possible accidents. I have screwed up many panoramas, assuming that I properly locked my exposure, after which I started shooting exclusively in Manual mode for panoramas.
  • Set your lens to Manual Focus – if you have a DSLR, focus your lens on a distant object (infinity or near infinity), then switch to manual focus. You do not want your camera to change focus every time you take a picture.
  • ISO – make sure that “Auto ISO” is turned off and set your ISO to the camera base ISO (either 100 or 200).
  • Aperture and Shutter Speed – for panoramic images, you want to have everything in focus. Therefore, make sure that your aperture is set to a good number that will put everything, including any foreground elements, into perfect focus. Depending on your lens focal length, you should set your aperture to at least f/8, preferably f/10 and higher (depending on how close the nearest foreground object is). Once you set the right aperture, set your shutter speed based on the meter reading as explained below.
  • Metering – in terms of metering, do not meter off the brightest or darkest areas of the scene, but rather try to find a “sweet middle” and set your shutter speed based on that area for the entire panorama. Take a couple of pictures and make sure that the images are not too overexposed or underexposed for the brightest and darkest parts of the scene.
  • Lens Focal Length – ultra wide and wide-angle lenses below 24-28mm on FX sensors and 16-18mm on DX sensors typically have heavy distortion and vignetting issues that can make it difficult to properly align and stitch images. For example, when I mount my Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G lens on an FX body such as Nikon D700, I get visible distortion and vignetting at 24mm. Gladly, both distortion and vignetting are very easy to deal with in Lightroom 3 Lens Correction, but if I did not use Lightroom or some other tool to automatically correct these lens problems, I would probably skip the 24mm focal length for shooting panoramic images. Typically, the focal lengths I use the most for panoramas are between 28mm to 50mm on full-frame FX bodies and 18mm to 35mm on DX, depending on the lens.
  • Shoot in RAW – I always recommend shooting in RAW for best results. See my RAW vs JPEG article to see why you should be shooting RAW.
  • White Balance – set your White Balance to “Auto” when shooting in RAW and change later, if necessary.

Sand Dune Panorama #3

3.3) Shooting Technique

Let’s proceed to the fun part – shooting panoramas. Once you have the equipment setup and ready to go, follow these instructions:

  1. Identify the area you want to photograph. The first thing you need to do, is identify what you want to capture. The best candidates for panoramic images are overlooks, i.e. standing on the top of a mountain or hill, or looking down from an elevated area with no near objects. Avoid shooting panoramas with trees, bushes and other objects in the foreground, unless you have special calibrated panoramic equipment. If you are shooting a scene that is far away from you, the panorama will stitch perfectly, because the software will not have to deal with parallax errors.
  2. Watch for wind and other moving objects. Wind can move tree leaves, grass, water and sand in different directions, which will spoil your panorama. Only shoot in windy conditions when the wind strongly moves everything in one direction. Avoid taking pictures of moving water waves.
  3. If you will be using a tripod, set the tripod on a firm surface and level it. Once it is leveled, mount your camera on the tripod horizontally or vertically and firmly tighten it. Make sure that you can freely pan the camera from one side to another without letting it change any angles. Try to watch for alignment errors by matching the lines in your viewfinder with the horizon.
  4. If shooting hand-held, keep the camera close to your eye and look through the viewfinder instead of the back LCD. Pan from left to right and see whether you can keep the camera straight and aligned against the horizon.
  5. Set your camera settings as shown above and make sure that the exposure is fully locked.
  6. Check camera focus and make sure that autofocus is disabled.
  7. Note the starting point and ending point you will be photographing and visually remember both.
  8. Take a single picture and see if the image looks good on the back LCD. If the image looks good, you are ready to shoot. If it doesn’t, check your exposure settings and make changes, if necessary.
  9. Point your camera at your starting point on the left and take the first picture. Before you move the camera, remember where your center focus point inside your viewfinder is pointing, then start moving the camera to the right, until that point is at the center edge of the frame. This basically means that you will be overlapping your new image with the first one by approximately 50%. Take a picture and repeat this process until you get to the end point. Remembering where the center focus point is at relative to the scene is the easiest and safest way for me to make sure that the images overlap enough for post-processing software to be able to stitch them later. You can certainly overlap them by a smaller margin and decrease the total number of images, so it is totally up to you on how you want to do this. Just make sure that the images overlap by at least 20% and there are visible stationary objects that will allow the stitching program to identify them and connect them later.
  10. If shooting hand-held, stand in one spot, keep your elbows close to your body and rotate only the upper part of your body, keeping the camera close to your head at all times. Imagine that your legs are a tripod and your upper body is a tripod head. This will minimize the effect of parallax on your images. If you have any nearby objects and you want to try to minimize parallax errors, try the following technique: using your left thumb and index fingers, hold the middle of the lens and try to take pictures while not moving your arm (your body needs to remain still). This is difficult to do because you will not be able to look through the viewfinder, but not impossible :) I have taken a few panoramic images this way and they stitched perfectly! Each lens is different and the entrance pupil (which is the point where close and distant objects keep their relative positions when the lens is rotated) location also varies depending on mechanical and optical characteristics of the lens. Your two fingers need to hold the bottom of the lens where the entrance pupil is (not the nodal point like many incorrectly assume) and the camera needs to rotate around it.
  11. Once you are done taking the pictures, visually inspect all images on the LCD at least once to make sure that you do not have any problems with your setup.

Black Canyon Panorama

The easiest and quickest panoramas can be done by hand-holding your camera. Believe it or not, but most of my panoramas are done hand-held! They might not be as perfect as I want them to be in some cases, but they are still darn good – good enough to print on large paper. Try out the above and see how it works out for you.

3.4) Using a Panoramic Head

If you want to get serious with panoramas, you should invest in a good panoramic setup, which will allow you to take pictures without worrying about parallax issues. There are plenty of different solutions out there and the most popular ones are by Nodal Ninja, Manfrotto and RRS, the latter being the number one choice for professionals. With a good panoramic head, you can have the camera setup rotate around the entrance pupil of the lens and take perfect single-row or multi-row panoramas that will stitch without any problems.

4) Stitching Panoramas in Software

Once you are done taking the pictures, you then need to stitch them using specialized software that is capable of handling panoramas. I will only show how to use Photoshop and PTGui, but you are more than welcome to try other panoramic tools.

4.1) Using Adobe Photoshop

Stitching panoramas in Photoshop is super easy. If you use Lightroom, simply select the images and then right click, “Edit In”->”Merge to Panorama in Photoshop…”. If you do not use Lightroom, simply open up Photoshop and then go to “File”->”Automate”->Photomerge…”. A dialog box will come up that looks like this:


The images will automatically show up if you use Lightroom. If you do it from Photoshop, simply click “Browse” and select the images to be merged into a panorama. Make sure that “Blend Images Together” and “Geometric Distortion Correction” are checked, then click OK. This will start the stitching process, which can sometimes take a long time, depending on the number of images and their size. Once the process is completed, all you have to do is crop the image and you are all set!

4.2) Using PTGui

Besides Photoshop, there are plenty of different panoramic tools out there and PTGui is certainly the most popular one. I have been using it for years and I really like it, although I must admit that Photoshop does a better job at stitching problematic panoramas. Once you open PTGui, click on the “Load images…” button, select the images you want to stitch then click “Open” to open the images within PtGui. Once the images are fully loaded, click the “Align images…” button and let PTGui calculate the connecting points. Once the process is complete, you will see a new window that looks like this:


Select the right projection for your panorama then return to the main screen and click the “Create Panorama…” button, which will take you to a separate tab. Set the right size and format of the image and click the “Create Panorama” button to start the stitching process.

PTGui has a lot more stitching options than Photoshop and you can customize pretty much anything, even manually set control points and select various stitching algorithms.

5) Challenges with Panoramic Photography

The biggest challenge with panoramic photography is stitching problems due to parallax errors. I highly recommend reading the Wikipedia article on parallax to fully understand why it presents such a big problem for photography. Once you learn the right ways to take images and minimize parallax, you can start taking great panoramic images!

Sand Dune Panorama #6

NIKON D700 @ 35mm, ISO 800, 1/200, f/5.0

Please let me know if you have any questions in the comments section below.


  1. June 4, 2010 at 4:55 am

    Great introductory article on panoramics Nasim! You covered about everything I wish I would have known when I was just starting out with panoramic photography, but sort of discovered after trial/error. I too have shot quite a few good panoramics hand held on a whim that I never really expected to be serious images, but turned out spectacular and sold well. Typically they had little to no foreground items and therefore little parallax to deal with or ghosted items to clone out. My best panoramics have been shot seeing the scene as a wide-angle composition in my mind, and therefore thinking in layers and including foreground, middle, and background layers to give it depth and sense of 3D. These have all required panoramic heads of course to prevent parallax errors, and would never stitch well hand held. Also, I agree with shooting portrait vs landscape orientation. Every pano I’ve shot landscape I’ve regretted later and wished I had done portrait to get more sky or more foreground since you typically have to crop a little in the end anyway, regardless of how level you set the camera.

    I like PTGui over PhotoShop because I typically do HDR panoramics. I’m not happy with HDR in PhotoShop. Of course, you could create a bunch of single HDR images in PhotoMatix first (batch) and then create your panoramic off the already blended images. PTGui can do it in one step. My favorite program and the one I use 90% of the time is PTAssembler by Max Lyons though. I use it for single image fusion for real estate, focus stacking, and for panoramics. What’s nuts is throwing 300+ images at it and doing HDR, focus stacking, and panoramic stitching all in one step. Max is a genius for writing the software to sort all that out! It’s not as easy to use as PTGui however, and not for the feint of heart. Expect to spend some time experimenting and hitting the user forum for assistance (great community).

    I just ordered an Induro PHQ3 pan head from B&H this morning to put my RRS gear on top of. It should help getting everything level for panos and real estate/architecture. My RRS ball head is very nice, but is driving me nuts when I really need absolute precision and just need to nudge the camera in one axis to get it level. The ball head loosens every axis and nudging it one direction will always knock another axis off-bubble! Hopefully this will help. I’ll have to write a review on my blog in a couple weeks after I’ve had time to experiment with it.

    • June 4, 2010 at 2:14 pm

      Thank you for your long and insightful feedback Aaron!

      HDR Panoramics is something I wanted to write about, but I have only shot 2-3 HDR Panos so far of landscapes, which did not turn out so well. I think HDR Panos are great for architectural photography…

      Let me know what you think of the Induro PHQ3, would love to find out if you like it or not – looking forward for a review on your blog.

      By the way, I’m still waiting for a quick advanced Panoramics tutorial from you :) I know you are busy, but there is not much info available on the Internet on this subject and I’m sure people would love to get such valuable info from a real pro!

      Your last architectural images look absolutely stunning, the images look so crisp and beautiful…

      • 1.1.1) Aaron Priest
        June 5, 2010 at 8:45 am

        Thanks for the compliment on the Arlington Ranch. Believe it or not those were shot with the D700 in DX mode using the Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM. I’m still saving my pennies for the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8, using a polarizer with it is not going to be cheap since there are no filter threads. Still, at 5MP the D700 makes the Sigma look better than the D70 did at 6MP. The D700 corrects some of the chromatic aberration that lens has in camera and of course ISO 800 looks better than 200 on the D70. I used a polarizer to cut glare and surface reflections, set custom white balance with an ExpoDisc (and a dust reference image since I use Capture NX), ran the converted TIFF images through PTLens to correct distortion, blended about 15 exposures of 2 or 3 focusing distances (30-45 images) using PTAssembler, and then gave the final outcome a little sharpening and clarity with Topaz Adjust. Sometimes there is some cropping or leveling and minor touchup of dust or dirt on floors too. I use about the same process with HDR panoramics, only there are more input images involved for a single output and I typically ditch the polarizer if going over 50 degrees field of view. What I do is technically exposure fusion and not HDR per say, though most people use the terms interchangeably. I’m still working on a more detailed article of all this. :-P I’m still experimenting with different techniques and software too. Not every process gives the best results for every image, which can be frustrating. It would be nice to say there’s one program and one workflow that works consistently for every occasion, but that just isn’t so.

        One thing I have not yet been able to master, in fact I’ve failed miserably to achieve, is to combine one or two flash shots with the HDR shots (indoor HDRs obviously) to get better color correction or reduce shadows. The other challenge for me has been different white balance between indoors and outdoors with real estate HDR if you don’t use flash or change every tungsten bulb in the building. Your windows and reflections on floors and surfaces will be a cold blue compared to the warm indoor light. The ExpoDisc can really help in that scenario, and choosing the right time of day will help too. Evenings and overcast days are a lot more blue. Our eyes/brain adjust and we don’t see this as dramatically as the camera does. HDR only increases the effect. I think outdoor landscape HDR is a lot easier in comparison, and I’m going to write about that first!

        Have you seen any of Trey Ratcliff’s HDR work? He is the master!

        • Profile photo of Nasim Mansurov Nasim Mansurov
          June 8, 2010 at 1:38 pm

          Aaron, if everyone was as thorough as you are – you should seriously start writing articles!

          That’s one hell of a workflow you’ve got there. A lot of work you put into those images and your efforts are paying off – you have beautiful images, some of the best I have seen by far. Looks like you need a good wide-angle lens and the 14-24mm is just too cumbersome with the large and expensive filters. What about the 24mm f/1.4 or the 24-70mm f/2.8G? Since you shoot architecture in panoramas, do you really need the ultra-wide angle focal lengths?

          As far as flash shots, I do not think you can really do that, because you would have a nightmare matching colors of ambient light and flash light. Plus, the shadows from ambient light and flash light combined would not look very natural. The only real solution I can think of, is to set up lights in permanent positions away from the camera, then take every shot with a flash…

          With the indoors/outdoors white balance problem, have you tried shooting the windows separately with the right white balance and then perhaps masking/copy-pasting them over your indoors shots? Or would that be too much work? Changing light bulbs is not a practical solution, especially if the lights are hard to reach and I can certainly understand your pain.

          Yes, I have seen Trey Ratcliff’s HDR work, but he mostly does outdoor landscapes and some of the images are too cartoonish and unreal for me. His latest work is beautiful though, he is clearly getting better and better.

          • Aaron Priest
            June 8, 2010 at 4:14 pm

            The 24-70mm f/2.8 is my primary lens, I love that beast! Extremely fast focusing and tack sharp, even at f/2.8 if you are careful with your focusing technique. 24mm is not wide enough for indoor real estate / architecture though, and sometimes not wide enough for outdoor either if you can’t back up far enough. The 14-24mm f/2.8 will be my next lens I think. The 16-35mm f/4 would be more practical for most people with VR and filter threads, but that extra 2mm can mean getting the shot or not for real estate. The aperture wouldn’t matter to me since I’m typically at least f/8 for greater DOF. I don’t shoot interior architecture or real estate as panoramics (or at least very rarely) since it will bow any straight lines and that’s definitely a misrepresentation and a big no-no. I wish I could find a 14mm tilt/shift lens! :-) However, for outdoor landscape panoramics, the 24-70mm f/2.8 is perfection!

            I’ve pulled off mixing flash and ambient with exposure fusing a couple times, but it is extremely difficult and inconsistent. There are a number of photographers breaking ground there though and coming up with different techniques to attempt it. I’ve tried some of their ideas and made up a few of my own, but with little to no success yet. Your odds improve if you use an ExpoDisc, a custom white balance, and color filters on the flash to get the lighting a consistent temperature. The whole point of mixing flash with ambient is to ensure you get the right color of walls and eliminate shadows in odd places.

            I’ve tried shooting different white balances and masking later. Usually the differences are too dramatic to look right, especially the window sills themselves. I’ve come up with a faster method that I’m still experimenting a bit more with before I write an article on it. Basically if the windows are turning out too blue, then I take the far underexposed photos and change the white balance to match the outdoors, since the windows are typically more dominant than the light bulbs on those shots. On the medium to bright ones I leave it balanced to the interior. You’ll get a little more orange to the highlights on your indoor bulbs, but it does not look that unnatural once blended. Unfortunately it does little to fix the blue reflections on floors and countertops since that comes largely from the middle exposures. If you can cut them out with a polarizer that helps even more. Unfortunately there is no polarizer for the 14-24mm f/2.8 that I’m aware of. You could pull it off with the 16-35mm f/4 if you were willing to lose 2mm. I know every HDR tutorial out there admonishes not to mix white balances when blending images, but I sometimes get pleasing results when I do. It’s very much an art and not a science though; every scene is different and for some images it does not work at all.

            Exterior landscapes are definitely a lot easier and a lot more fun! (Though I haven’t really found a way to pay the bills yet with landscapes vs real estate, haha!)

            • Profile photo of Nasim Mansurov Nasim Mansurov
              June 11, 2010 at 4:21 pm

              Nice, I love my 24-70mm as well! It’s not sharp on the edges at 24mm, but super good beyond 28mm.

              What about the 24mm tilt/shift lens? What do you think about it? I’m thinking of getting one for testing from B&H and need to see if it is worth it.

              On paying bills with landscape photography, unless you are super good like Ansel, there is no money in landscape photography…

            • Aaron Priest
              June 11, 2010 at 5:02 pm

              Typically if I’m using my 24-70mm at f/4 or wider I’m doing portraits or at the telephoto end where sharp edges are of no concern. If I am all the way at 24mm wide I’m at f/8 or smaller for greater depth of field anyway. So I’ve had no issues yet with unsharp edges in real world usage. For panoramics, I’m typically at 50mm-70mm for more pixels in the resulting image, rarely wider than 35mm.

              I’ve not used the 24mm tilt/shift, but I’d love to try it someday. It would not be wide enough for my real estate work, unless maybe it was an exterior shot from more of a distance. I’d love to read a review if you do test one. :-)

              And, yeah, totally agree on the landscape opinion! Sigh…

            • Profile photo of Nasim Mansurov Nasim Mansurov
              June 16, 2010 at 9:59 pm

              Same here, I also use the 24-70mm at f/8 or greater in most cases… For panoramics, I typically shoot at 35mm and sometimes 50mm, if I don’t care about the sky.

              I might request a 24mm tilt shift as soon as it becomes available (currently out of stock at B&H and Adorama).

    • 1.2) Johan Schultz
      November 16, 2012 at 7:48 pm

      Thanks lots for the detailes explination! I found your article on another site, word for word: Not sure if this guy just copy and past other peoples stuff?…

  2. 2) matt
    June 6, 2010 at 8:41 am

    One thing I’ve learned is to take pictures of the ground in-between sets, otherwise you get home and you may not remember what pictures go to what pano.

    • June 6, 2010 at 4:50 pm

      Yup! I often hold up some fingers in front of my lens so I know this is beginning of pano 1, this is beginning of 2, etc. Doesn’t matter if it’s in focus, long as I can count my fingers. Good reminder as hardly anyone remembers to recommend that tip!

      • June 8, 2010 at 1:40 pm

        Haha, this one is even better! :) My only problem is remembering what filter I was using with the lens…perhaps I can come up with various gestures to highlight which filter I used? :D

      • June 8, 2010 at 1:41 pm

        I keep forgetting that the D3s has audio annotation capability…I should just use that instead when I shoot with the D3s, LOL :)

    • June 8, 2010 at 1:39 pm

      Matt, that’s a great tip, thank you for sharing! :)

  3. 3) MAFAv8r
    July 30, 2010 at 7:40 pm

    Thanks Nasim/Aaron,

    Just to clarify for people, so they don’t make the same mistake I have. I bought a month of photos back (didn’t bring my laptop with me) intending to HDR panorama them in PTGui. I was using A mode and over-exposing/ correct exposing/under-exposing as per another site recommendation. However so nobody else makes the same mistake, PTGui requires full manual for HDR panoramas.
    Do you have any keys for Photomatrix then PTGui as mine hasn’t worked out that well and I don’t use Photoshop, only LR3?

    • July 30, 2010 at 8:33 pm

      That is a good point MAFAv8r: PTGui does not like blending images that don’t have the same exposures on the bracketed sets. If your shutter, aperture, or ISO is varying between brackets, it won’t blend right, so you must shoot in full manual mode. PTAssembler and Tufuse does not have this same problem. It looks at the light levels within the images rather than the EXIF data on the images (for exposure anyway, it still uses EXIF to determine lens data). Even with PTAssembler images often won’t blend very well if your exposure is varying too far though. Skies in particular will go from light to dark in areas and look weird. I’ve shot scenes in program or aperture priority though and darkened or lightened them in Capture NX or Lightroom to have a consistent look before exporting the TIFFs for PTAssembler and they stitched perfectly fine when PTGui wouldn’t stitch (because EXIF data was not consistent even though the lighting in the images was).

    • August 18, 2010 at 10:38 am

      MAFAv8r, I apologize for a late response. When you asked about keys for Photomatix, did you mean license keys?

  4. 4) Matt
    November 19, 2010 at 5:29 pm


    You have some beautiful images. Can I use any of them for an advertisement? I am trying to find a desert scene panarmic view to display on a curved display for a conference.



    • December 7, 2010 at 5:24 pm

      Matt, I apologize for a late response. Thank you very much for your feedback! Yes, please feel free to use any of the above images, but please don’t forget to mention my name or my blog URL – you can do that in small letters on your presentation.

      • January 8, 2012 at 9:44 am

        I would also like to use one of your pictures. I’d like to surprise my fiance with a large picture of sanddunes to hang above our bed. (We have an inside joke after a dune buggy adventure when the sanddunes seemed to stretch out to infinity, that we love each other as much as a sanddune stretches… Cheesey. I know. :-)) Sandune Panorama #3 is just what I’ve been looking for!! But the resolution is too small… Is there any way I could get a digital copy big enough to print it out on 4′ or 5′ wide?

      • 4.1.2) Mohamed
        May 24, 2015 at 3:59 am

        Hi Nasim,
        Thanks for your tutorial. I would like to use some of your images in my presentation to explain other idea in my field (software testing). I will put your blog-URL as a reference.
        Thanks in advance..

  5. 5) Laresa
    February 23, 2011 at 8:12 am

    Hi Nasim, you have an amazing blog and so much information.

    I am very new to 360 degree panorama photography. Did my first one today using a trial version of PTgui. Can you tell me what is the easiest or best software so I can make movie for blog ie flash or quicktime

    Your help is greatly appreciated

  6. 6) lem
    May 3, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    this is great stuff. thanks!

  7. August 15, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    Great article for beginners & even intermediates. Thanks a lot for sharing :)

  8. October 22, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    I’ve been trying to shoot panoramas and I thought I have everything covered but boy was I wrong.
    Thanks for the tips man!

  9. November 21, 2011 at 1:55 am

    Hi Nasim, your site has been so enlightening for me in terms of understanding panorama photography. I would like to know more on Giga pixel photography. Do we have good detailed tutorials and the equipment details that are needed for this photography.
    Please advice.

  10. 10) Marco
    November 23, 2011 at 8:32 am

    Hi Nasim,

    firstly thank you so much for all your post…..I am falling in love with photography and the merit is in part yours.
    I had some problems merging pictures to create panoramas in Photoshop using your guideline. I mean, my computer is not that powerful but it should not impact the process itself.
    The PC manages correctly up to 18 or so pics, but after that the outer edge of the panorama starts to stretch and it’s impossible to add the remaining sequence of pictures I took, in total 35, more or less….
    Long story short….I have a decent panorama of 18 pics, actually 2 ( 18 starting adding pics from the right, and 18 starting adding pics from the left)…..but merging them together….or simply add the 19ieth either to the right or left composition generates a mess. Do you know why? And in case how to solve it?

    Ciao and keep up the great job.

    Marco from Italy

  11. 11) John
    December 15, 2011 at 7:05 pm

    Greetings from a fellow Coloradoan! I love this article on panoramas! Landscapes are one of my favorite things to photograph and I was always mildly disappointed with them because of the “horizontalness” of them. I never even thought about shooting vertically and hope to try it next time I’m in the mountains.
    Couple quick questions: You say a lot of your panoramas are shot handheld. Do you use a vertical grip or are you able to get good straight shots without one? I don’t have a grip yet for my D90 but have recently been thinking about getting one for sheer comfort and quickness in composing vertically.
    My second question: You say one of your favorite lenses for panoramas is the 24-70. Do you use that depending on if you’re using a cropped sensor or not? I ask because I’ve been debating back and forth for weeks now on getting either the Tamron 28-75 2.8 or the Sigma 17-50 2.8. The 28-75 seems the better lens but I’m not sure it would be wide enough for panoramas.
    Again, fantastic blog you have! I look forward to reading more articles.

    John, Pueblo

  12. January 17, 2012 at 10:09 am

    Hi Nasim,
    Excellent article.. clear and very helpful.. I never thought about shooting in portrait, but I currently only shoot sunrise and sets and the foreground usually isn’t a factor.
    I have used a tripod, but I find that my handheld, elbows tucked in, and pivoting at the waist is better. Sometimes while I am shooting other potential shots may arise, like wildlife and It is quicker to get the shot if I don’t have to take the camera off of the tripod. I also use the spot metering dots on my viewfinder to help me divide the shots into 3rds and to help me keep the same line on the horizon.
    I have been using Hugin as my stitching software. It is free, it does a decent job and I am familiar with it. I use my 25mm 2.8 the most. After reading this article I am thinking about using my 35-100 2.0 Thanks again for a great article.

  13. 13) Alison
    April 13, 2012 at 1:25 am

    Hi Nasim,

    Brilliant clear article. Thank you.

    I want to ‘serious’ about panoramic photography. I am an artist. I don’t mind spending on the best stuff…no point unless the results are top notch and can be enlarged.

    I am UK based. Can you recommend a good company here to approach for equipment for this. Like pro stuff…tripod and accessories etc.

    Thanks again.

  14. 14) RIch
    April 22, 2012 at 2:49 am

    I kindly provide the information that the software ‘Helicon Focus’ does stacking and panorama and of course a combination. It is available for both MS Windows and OS X including Lion.

  15. 15) Edz0316
    May 6, 2012 at 7:12 am

    Hello Nasim,

    Thank you for this article. great for beginners / amateurs. i’ve tried panoramas recently, i need to practice a bit more. i’m working on it..

    btw, how many images you took for each of your panoramas? aside from cs5 photomerge and ptgui, what software/s are best for photo stitching?

    Great Job. Thank you!!

  16. 16) Sudeep
    June 2, 2012 at 9:11 am

    Great work Nasim. I was searching for an article like this and this explain all the details what I required.
    Thanks for sharing.

  17. 17) Marcus
    July 2, 2012 at 3:30 am

    good evening, I was wondering, instead of using photoshop for editing it, can you use lightroom still?

  18. 18) Mayank Manu
    July 8, 2012 at 12:12 am

    Hi Nasim
    Q1: I tried her but my camera saved images in NEF format when i clicked image in RAW setting, later tried in photo shop CS3 to merge, nothing happened and no image is created and photo shop stayed blank no action , do i have to follow some other step as well.

    Q2: how to edit RAW in photo shop as photo?

    Q3: how to convert RAW to JPEG image..?

    Looking forward for you help

    Warm regards from rainy India ‘

    Mayank Manu

  19. 19) Radjev
    July 28, 2012 at 8:50 pm

    Thanks Nazim

    Almost everything goes better with outdoor shots but do you have also good tips for indoor shots.?


  20. 20) Paul utham
    August 4, 2012 at 2:41 am

    It s Wery nice Nasim thanks for the tips

  21. 21) Dildora Nabieva
    November 9, 2012 at 10:07 am

    Hi Nasim,

    just want to let you know that none of your photos in the articles is opening up. This has never been the case before. I don’t know whether it is me who is having the problem or…?
    But anyways thank you very much for such detailed writings :)

  22. 22) abdurrahman moustapha
    January 16, 2013 at 5:36 am

    thank you thank you an thank you Mr. Nasim

  23. March 2, 2013 at 11:40 am

    Great tutorial Nasim. One question. Do you have good tips how to make the Nadir to the 360×180 panorama (removing the tripod from panorama)? Some of my works can be found at . I usually add logo or limit the viewpoint to hide my tripod.

  24. 24) Vic Zubakin
    March 4, 2013 at 1:52 am

    Hi Nasim,

    Thanks for a another great tutorial!
    Shooting panos is something I want to explore.

    Juts a bit puzzled by one piece of advice.
    You recommend a manual setup for exposure/ISO/focus, etc.
    But you mention using auto white balance.
    Wouldn’t it be safer to set a specific white balance to ensure a more consistent result?

    Cheers, Vic.

  25. 25) Bruce Fairman
    August 26, 2013 at 9:29 pm

    I am having a problem understanding why it helps to shoot in portrait mode. I do, mainly because everyone says to, but? Granted there are more pixels on the long side of the sensor, but as all pixels are square the additional pixels are just because the photo and sensor is longer on that edge. If you crop a photo how are you reducing pixels more if you crop in a horizontal image.

    • 25.1) KeithRJ
      August 28, 2013 at 9:45 pm

      The long side of the image gives more vertical pixels and you need more shots to get the same horizontal sweep as when shooting landscape.

    • 25.2) Steve B.
      April 3, 2014 at 7:34 pm

      To clarify even more, vertical shooting doesn’t give you more resolution but does allow more space from the bottom of your image to the top edge after cropping, for a taller finished product (if you so choose).

      If you look at the last screenshot (second from last image in the article) you’ll notice the top and bottom edges are really wavy. The more error in camera angle – and handheld is tricky – the wavier those edges are after stitching, meaning heavier cropping ie: less sky, less ground. The more shots you use/wider view, the more potential for bigger waves. Vertical shooting gives you much more play room.

      I did an unplanned 360 degree horizontal panorama last year, hand held, on a sloped roof and in a major rush. While it did work well enough (barely), I did end up cropping the tops off a few skyscrapers. If I had shot vertical I would still have those tops.

  26. 26) KeithRJ
    August 28, 2013 at 9:42 pm

    I have found that in addition to everything you suggest, using lens correction in Lightroom makes stitching SO much easier! I correct for distortion, vignetting and chromatic aberration . I use PTAssembler for my stitching as it gives me lots of control although it is not for the faint of heart.

  27. 27) Michael Lux
    February 11, 2014 at 9:24 am

    Wonderful article. It has helped me greatly and I am quite satisfied with the practice photoshop stiched panos I have been shooting. But, I am having issues and questions with editing and printing in Photoshop CS5. Would love to see an article on editing and self printing panos after they are stiched together into Photoshop.

    I have an Epson R2880 printer. It is wonderful. However, when I check the print preview of my stiched pano; using a 11×17 print paper setting; not all of the images is showing in the print preview box. Is there a limit to the size of a pano that can be displayed and printed by my printer? Much appreciated.

  28. 28) Manish
    May 18, 2014 at 7:45 pm

    very nicely put Nasim Mansurov. Love the simplicity in writing. I shall give it a go.

  29. 29) ajjuazad
    July 13, 2014 at 9:36 pm

    Hi can you make short video tutorial

  30. 30) Adam
    September 11, 2014 at 12:31 pm

    Hey guys,

    I recently took one of my first panoramas of a city skyline, and I used a 70-200mm f/4 at about 91mm. I stitched 22 vertical images together in photoshop and it looks great, but I noticed the size is 33,892 x 4,134 pixels at 300dpi. making it like 9 feet long and only 13 inches high. Does that mean I’m stuck at those dimensions to get the best quality if printed?

  31. 31) Hermann Guenther
    November 27, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    Hello Nasim,

    Great article about pano
    shooting. Not overly technical and easy to understand. A Coloradan myself, I
    have been shooting panos for about five years now. In the process, I have
    learned by trial and error much of what you have stated (take the shots in
    portrait orientation, overlap 50%, REMOVE the polarizer, manual focus and
    exposure, etc.). The issues of entrance pupil and parallax are relatively new
    to me. Even so, many of my panos came out OK just hand-held. But I have figured
    out how to make an inexpensive pano head that allows me to place the entrance
    pupil of the lens exactly above the rotation point of the tripod head
    (ball head only – much easier to level than a three-way head). For about $50 I
    bought a four-way focusing rail that allows me to move the entrance pupil
    back and forth, and lets me move the camera left and right. This lets
    me mount different cameras vertically on a steel angle attached to the
    upper rail, and still place the axis of the lens directly over the rotation point.
    This is not critical for distant scenes, but sure helps when parts of the scene
    are within a few feet of the camera (my pano of Red Rocks Amphitheater is an
    example of why this is important). Check out this link to some of my panos –
    The thumbnail of San Diego
    is an example of why I should have held the camera in portrait orientation! I
    would welcome any critique from you. I’ll bookmark your blog for sure. Thanks.


  32. 32) Freddie
    July 2, 2015 at 5:40 pm

    There is a question that I’ve been trying to get an answer to for a long time. This question relates to rotation cameras. Can you take two panoramic pictures, say 180 degrees, with two different focal length lenses, giving the picture a different vertical scope, and have the ratio of the picture frame remain the same, and not distort the the photo anamorphicly? Say the ratio is 3:1. If you change from a 40mm to a 30mm lens, will the ratio still be 3:1

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