Panorama: Stitching images together

This is a short guide to how you can stitch together several images into a big one. Most people have experienced admiring a view and then wanting to take a picture of it. The problem though; not quite getting all of it in the same picture. It’s hard to get everything your eyes see into the camera’s viewfinder. How far can you back off before you fall of the mountain?

Panorama picture, taken from the top of Midtfjell, in Hardanger, Norway - at 1255 meters.
Panorama picture, taken from the top of Midtfjell, in Hardanger, Norway – at 1255 meters.

There are several solutions, and the one I will focus mostly on here is in the software department. Note that others might be better choices for a specific situation.

1) «The more expensive solution»

You could simply get a  wide angle lens (objective) for your camera. For my Canon camera, for example, I use a Sigma 10-20mm. It’s not perfect, by any means, but it does work just fine for many situations.

You can find these in all price ranges, but most of them cost quite a bit.

2) «The lucky-me-,» or the «not-always-so-good-quality-solution»

Many smartphones, tablets and the like have a built-in panorama feature for combining pictures into a bigger one. This also goes for newer cameras. Typically you point your camera where you want to start, and then move your camera slowly in any direction. After some processing, the result is saved on your memory card. Easy, right? Yes, but you don’t always have full control over the situation, and might end up with results that don’t match what you need.

For quick and ease of use though, this is great stuff.

3) «The software version»

There are many apps and programs that can help you create a panorama, which includes having full control over all settings. This is where you go for the best quality.

Note that you should definitely get a tripod to support the weight and maintain the stability of your camera. This helps a lot. Don’t underestimate it.

Example #1: Microsoft ICE: Image Composite Editor

Download (Windows only)

Microsoft Research has developed ICE, short for Image Composite Editor. It’s a great tool that I cannot understand isn’t better known. It’s easy to use, quick and gives good results. Even better, it’s free.

Microsoft Image Composite Editor is an advanced panoramic image stitcher. Given a set of overlapping photographs of a scene shot from a single camera location, the application creates a high-resolution panorama that seamlessly combines the original images. The stitched panorama can be shared with friends and viewed in 3D by uploading it to the Photosynth web site. Or the panorama can be saved in a wide variety of image formats, from common formats like JPEG, TIFF and PSD to the multiresolution tiled format used by Silverlight’s Deep Zoom and by the HD View and HD View SL panorama viewers.

Example #2: Adobe Photoshop

Download (Windows, Mac)

There is a built-in function in Photoshop that is powerful and easy to use. Look for «File > Automate > Photomerge…» in the menu and you will be greated with the following screen:

The photomerge function in Photoshop.
The photomerge function in Photoshop.

As you can see there are a lot of advanced options, and it can often be necessary to try a variety of these before you are happy with the results. Look at the tutorials below. «Auto» often does the trick, though.

Photoshop is most definitely not free, but it is an important tool to know in today’s business.

More info:

Example #3: Hugin: Panorama Photo Stitcher

Download (Linux, Windows, Mac, etc.)

Goal: an easy to use cross-platform panoramic imaging toolchain based on Panorama Tools. With Hugin you can assemble a mosaic of photographs into a complete immersive panorama, stitch any series of overlapping pictures and much more.

In short: Free, good and works on lots of different operating systems.

Example #4: GIMP

Download (Linux, Windows, Mac, etc.)

GIMP is great. Unfortunately I don’t use it often and therefore don’t have much experience. But still, I know there are lots of nice plug-ins available to make panoramas.

In short: Free, good and works on lots of different operating systems.

Let me know if you have any experience here.

Publisert av

Jo Bjørnar

I am a teacher at "Amalie Skram videregåande skule", a high school in Bergen, Norway. I teach computer science, technology and research and media. Every now and then I publish something in line with this, it being photography, filming, programming and the like. More often, though, you will find something about my big passion; mountains and the outdoors. I hike, walk, ski, telemark and enjoy this as often as possible.

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