I always wanted to write a comprehensive guide on shooting panoramas. But it doesn’t seem to happen. So I’m just dumping few thoughts on how to shoot panoramas .
In case you may wonder how I produced this: http://www.janapriya.net/gallery/sigiriya please read on.
Most of you know that, you can shoot panoramas (mostly cylindrical) using a normal point and shoot camera. Some cameras have the built in functionality for this. However, you don’t have the control over the entire process.
The “manual” work flow mainly has few steps. In brief, you take many photographs, stitch them to produce on single photo, upload it, and use a panorama viewer to display it.
1. Shooting photos
You might use a handheld camera (without using the built in panorama mode) to shoot a panorama. But sometimes it’ll be almost impossible to stitch accurately. This is mostly due to the parallax error: object closer to the camera may move w.r.t the objects seen far away. So two consecutive photos may see the scene differently. Initial years I used a handheld camera. I rotated the camera around a “virtual” point and shoot the photos. You might get satisfactory results after some practice. If you are shooting a landscape, where everything far away, with negligible parallax error. But later i bought few hardware to do the trick. It is called a Panohead (you can google it). Along with a tripod, you can accurately rotate the camera around a point, where there is almost no parallax error.
Number of images required for the stitching, is greatly reduced by using a wide angle lens (fish-eye lens if possible). In other words zoom out as much as possible . And take photos with at least 30% overlap.
I used a SLR camera, fish-eye lens, a panohead and a tripod for the sigiriya shots. Furthermore, I used different exposure levels for each photo, to make it a HDR.
To stitch you can use Hugin. It is an open source software. Alternatively, you might use free software like Autopano, or commercial software like PTGui. All these software is easy to work with. So I won’t go in detail with them. All above software could be used to generate a stiched single image.
There is a commonly used java based viewer called ptviewer. However, many now use flash based viewers. For example, FPP, Panosalado etc.. FPP is not for free, but Panosalado is. I bought FPP for Sigiriya panos .