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A Beginner's Guide to Panorama Stitching
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 07, 2009 9:00 pm    Post subject: A Beginner's Guide to Panorama Stitching Reply with quote

Herewith I present a "Beginner's Guide to Panorama Stitching" exclusively for the MF-Lenses forum Smile Laughing

This guide is giving insight into the first steps of making stiched panorama photographs,giving tips and showing examples
for standard situations.

It gives basic information about the stiching process, photographing technique and the euipment which can be used.
I am not dealing in this guid with 360 panoramas, sorry this is not my style

An Advanced Guide to Panorama Stiching was released in May 2012:

English is not my native language - I am open for any language corrections (please PN)!


The Technique


- take enough overlapping from frame to frame. 1/3rd is an good everage.
see here a example for correctly overlapping frames by shooting freehand:

- portrait or landscape format frames are both possible. Depends on the subject.
to begin with, shooting landscape format frames is more safe.

- shoot always in manual mode, camera and lens. Autofocus can easily destroy a single frame and so the whole panorama.

Choosing the right lens, aperture and shutter speed

- with medium-scale scenerys begin with a 35mm, 28mm or 20mm lens. With landscapes a 28/35mm lens gives a very natural look to your panorama. Note! that my Pentax K10D has a crop sensor (1.5 magnification factor). Checkt the cropfactor of your camerasensor and relate to it.
Be aware that lenses from 10-20mm create huge distortions to you final result.
Later on one can experiment with those lenses for artistic reasons.

16mm - large-scale lanscape

(SMC DA* 16-50mm, Giglachseen, Austria )


(SMC A 20/2.8, Hochknig, Salzburg)


(SMC M 28/3.5, Venice, Italy)


(medium-scale landscape shot, C. Zeiss Flektogon 35mm 2.4 MC, Saalfelden, Salzburg)


(SMC A 50/1.2, Gerling, Salzburger Land)


(S.M.C. Takumar 85/1.8, Zeeland, The Netherlands)

- choose lenses with very high corner sharpness and and less barrel distortions! You don't want unsharp spots inside your final image and you don't want that it looks like a wave-form Smile

- to begin with take a aperture between f8 and f11 (daylight, outdoor use) to get everything in your pano sharp. Watch that your shutter speed does not become slower than 1/160, to prevent camera shake. Go for 100% safety.
Remember! One single frame with camera shake destroys the whole panorama.
Try to shoot with higher ISO if the shutter becomes to slow --> With an
e.g. everage 25 frames panorama one does not notice much of a grain (when shot with e.g. ISO 400-500) when the whole panorama is scaled down to e.g. a 50Megapixel resolution.
Here's an example of an large-scale panorama stiched from more than 30 frames which shot on a very high ISO with polarizer.

(SMC A 20/2.8, Hochknig, Berchtesgadener Alpen, Salzburger Land)

- short or long lenses, all is possible. As used with analog panorama-cameras, all typ of lenses from super wide angel till telelenses are used by panorama photographs.

exaples why to take a long lens:
1)you want nicer bokeh

2)your subject is far away

(SMC A 100/2.8 Macro, Kitzsteinhorh, Nationalpark Hohe Tauern, Salzburger Land)

3)you want to make a large scale print and use stiching technics to gain megapixles (pseudo-panorama):

(SMC A 70-210/4, Fortress of Salzburg)
see here a 32 Megapixel Panorama


- make a metering on a light part (maybe not the lightest) of the panorama-scenery and use this as your shutter speed for all frames.

Capturing the frames

- a steady hand is needed or a tripod
- a nodal panoramahead (e.g. Nodal Ninja) for your tripod is not necessary at all!
- 99% of my panoramas are done freehand
- try to get a rhythm while capturing each frame, move your camera always the same distance to the next frame - don't worry, one get a feeling for the distances
- try to find signifficant points in your scenery and remember them; you'll need this points to relate on when you change to the second or third row of frames

- do not move your legs or your hips, turn with your upper body/shoulders around your spine. Remember! You do not have to immitate a nodal-point panoramahead Smile

- the most difficult part is to make straight rows of frames. One tends to descend to the right !! (you could miss a lot of sky later at the top-right side of your pano). To prevent that, try to relate your rows on the horizon or on the siglifficalt poits in the scenery which you memorized.

- mostly I use 3 rows of landscape format frames above each other

(SMC A 20/2.8, Hochknig, Berchtesgadener Alpen, Salzburger Land)

- 2 rows of portrait frames can be very useful when one needs to shoot fast (see explaination later)

- sometimes panoramas with only 2-3 landscape or 3-6 portrait format frames can be enough
I use this a lot if I don't want or can't change to a wider lens

(SMC A 20/2.8, Hochknig, Berchtesgadener Alpen, Salzburger Land)

- 4 rows example:

(SMC A 20/2.8, Umballflle, East Tyrol, Austria)

- portrait format panoramas are of course possible as well

(SMC DA*16-50/2.8 on 16mm, Venice, Italy)

- your beginning frame is the main subject.
Try to get the main subject(s) (e.g. house, tree, person, car etc.) in one frame, then you build up the panorama around this frame

(see the result above)

- make a seperate shot with the subject in the middle of the frame ... this is VERY useful if there occur stiching errors and you
want to mount your subject later into the finished panorama

- shoot in RAW mode! If your metering was slightly off, you could later (using the batchmode of your RAW converter) correct all the frames to the exposure you want.

Special situations

moving objects
- be aware with moving objects:
- don't worry, your sticher can handle moving objects BUT those objects should not be cutted, they should be in one frame.
- too many moving objects can create "ghost-images" (e.g. birds), but can later on be corrected easily in PS.

(SMC M 28/2.8, Untersberg, Salzburger Hochthron, Salzburger Land)

night situations
- take a tripod and do same as written above (capturing the frames).
- a steady tripod is needed, wind (shake) can easily destroy a single frame.

I had luck with my Manfrotto tripod, there was heavy wind on the top of this mountain ...

That is a kind of trick-shot; It's nearly day down in the image and night at the top of the photograph.
more about this kind of technics --> see in the advanced panorama guide which is coming soon)
(SMC K 135/2.5, town of Hallein, Salzburger Land)

- use a cable shutter release
- when shooting in bulb mode, take a stop-watch with you to correctly expose each frame
- in some nightfall situations you need a calculator.

nightfall situation
- remember that it becomes darker and darker very fast while nightfall!
If you make e.g. a 25-frames panorama this is a crucial thing. So if the exposure for one frame takes e.g. 45 seconds at the beginning of nightfall, same exposure 20 minutes later can be 1:30min. This situations are quite tricky to shoot because you are doing everything in manual mode.
Shooting panoramas in the "blue hour" is a challenging thing:

(paper-factory "M-Real", Hallein, Salzburger Land)

- interesting night-technics are explaind in the Advanced Guide, which will come soon Smile

- remember: clouds are moving fast ! If you want less blur in your clouds, shoot with wider apertures and higher ISO ratios to shoot your frames faster.

cloudes movements in a moonlight situation:

(SMC A 20/2.8, Saalfelden, Salzburger Land)

- don't worry, your stiching software can handle clouds movements very well.

Using Filters

- any filter which couses vignetting are dangerous for the panographer e.g. polarizer
- filters as ND-grads never use ! Your hands will not memorize the horizon of your ND gradient filter perfectly. Better make a gradient later in PS.
- ND grey filters can be used without problem
using the polarizer correctly:
- if you are shooting 20mm or wider you have to have a polarizer with a very thin THIN filter ring. That prevents vignetting which is upmoast dangerous to panorama shooting.
- never turn your polarizer to the position where it is most effective
(darkest sky/lightest highlights). Stay somwhere in the middle (again to prevent vignetting). it could end up (in the worst case) like that:

(SMC K 24/2.8, Zell am See, Austria)

- nerver turn you polarizer during the shooting process.

Panoramas taken with a circ. polarizer:

(SMC A 20/2.8, Hochknig, Berchtesgadener Alpen, Salzburger Land)

(SMC A 20/2.8, Pasterze-Glazier, National Park "Hohe Tauern", Austria)


- any subject is possible
- medium-scale landscapes are good to begin with
- look for eyechatching motives inside the scenery

(SMC A 20/2.8, near Pasterze-Glazier, National Park "Hohe Tauern", Austria)

(SMC A 20/2.8, Weissensee/Gletscherwelt, National Park "Hohe Tauern", Austria)

- remember: proportions of distances will look very different in the stiched shot then what you expect.
e.g. a cow which is 50cm away from you can look as it is 20meters away
e.g. huge mountain grups can look like small hills, people look like ants

I was standing nerly under the windmill, which creates a very awkward distortion

(SMC A 20/2.8, Zeeland, "Neeltje Jans", Holland)

a huge rainbow can look like a childrens toy:

(SMC A 20/2.8, Zeeland, "Neeltje Jans", Holland)

- with larg-scale shots try do bring a reference point in your shot (e.g. people, cars etc. something to relate proportions on)

watch my wife under the windmill Smile

(SMC K 28/3.5, Zeeland, Wemeldinge, The Netherlands)

- a foreground subject gives an extra feeling of depth

(SMC A 20/2.8, Weissensee/Gletscherwelt, National Park "Hohe Tauern", Austria)

- first photograph the motive/subject then build the panorama around it

- Black & White works perfect on panoramas (watch my wife standing middle/right)

(SMC A 20/2.8, Krimmler Waterfalls, Nationalpark Hohe Tauer, Austria)

The Stiching Process

I will not do recomandations on a certain stiching software product. There's a lot of great software with mostly similar features ...

If you want fast stiching/rendering you need a fast CPU. 4 GB Ram is good, I worked years with only 2GB.

- load your photographs (RAW or jpg) into the sticher
- don't forget to set the lens' length, so the sticher can handle your files correctly (correct lens distortions etc.)
(If you use manual lenses the length of the lens is not stored in the EXIFs, so the stiching software can't derive it)
- disable "Auto level" and "auto color correction" (or similar)
- the "standard" detection mode is 99% enough to detect and stich your panoramas correctly
if your sticher has troubles with detecting, try to set it on "low detection" (or similar), often this helps
- the detection/stiching process takes in everage ~20-30 seconds for a 20frames panorama (depends on your computer power)
- in advanced modes one can define the projection modes of the frames: mostly sphereical/cylyndrical/planar
Play around with ot ALOT!
Example for spherical projection:

(C. Zeiss Jena Flektogon 20mm 2.8 MC, Paris, Tour Eiffel)

- after shortly editing in advanced mode, render the Panorama
- be aware: a 25frames Panorama has about 150Megapixel (with a 10MP camera).
- render in TIF mode
- activate 16bit TIF mode if you use RAW images, to get even better quality.

Rendering a 25frames(10MP) panorama takes about 5 minutes (Dual Core 2X2.4 Ghz).

Special Features - Stiching Software

(more of it will be in the 2nd part of this panorama guide.

- Just to explain one feature which I use a lot:
In "planar projection mode" (see above) one can immitate a T/S lens by manually correcting the horizontals and verticals. One can make architecture shots with a resolution which
a T/S lens never can produce. e.g. the architecture photograph beneath from 21 frames becomes a 150Megapixel output file.

(SMC A 50/1.2, Overzande, Zeeland, The Netherlands)

planar projection:

frame distortion planar projection:

that would be spherical projection:

frame distortion spherical projection:

another example of a T/S stiching:

(C. Zeiss Flektogon 35mm 2.4 MC, church windowof Notre Dame, Paris, France)


Hope you enjoyed this Guide and got a litte insight in the panorama world.

You can read the "Advanced Guide to Panorama Stiching" since May 2012
here's the link.


Dozens of my panoramas can be viewd on my webpage:

[sorry that's old content, will be renewed soon! (2012) ]

Any use of this texts and photograph content is prohibited by the author.
2009, Tobias Guttmann

Last edited by tobbsman on Sun May 13, 2012 7:50 am; edited 2 times in total

PostPosted: Fri Aug 07, 2009 9:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

1st reaction:

Wow, you made one of the best howto's I have ever seen.

2nd reaction:

Wow, I got an overdose of panoramas, and each one of them is the best I have ever seen.

Shocked Shocked Shocked

PostPosted: Fri Aug 07, 2009 9:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mr. Tobbsman!!

RESPECT x 100 !!!

..you are a master of Pano .!



PostPosted: Fri Aug 07, 2009 9:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh YES, I enjoyed a lot !!!

Thanks Tobias.
That's a Masterpiece.

PostPosted: Fri Aug 07, 2009 9:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

OMG ! This post must be a sticky !

Best howto I've seen, never said so much "wow's" on one post ...


PostPosted: Sat Aug 08, 2009 12:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Many thanks for an excellent - and very generous - contribution.

PostPosted: Sat Aug 08, 2009 12:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote


PostPosted: Sat Aug 08, 2009 12:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Spotmatic wrote:
1st reaction:

Wow, you made one of the best howto's I have ever seen.

2nd reaction:

Wow, I got an overdose of panoramas, and each one of them is the best I have ever seen.

Shocked Shocked Shocked

Wow, I got an overdose of panoramas, and each one of them is the best I have ever seen.


PostPosted: Sat Aug 08, 2009 8:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

tobbsman: simply

PostPosted: Sun Aug 09, 2009 7:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you all, too kind of you!

I am looking forward to see your Panoramas! Laughing
Film-panos from scans are of course possible as well, I did not mention that in the Guide.


PostPosted: Sun Aug 09, 2009 7:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you very much. I have only tried some simple 3-4 frame panos with Hugin software, but your examples are mouth-watering.

I wish you could comment on the different panorama software you have tried.

PostPosted: Sun Aug 09, 2009 8:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I wish you could comment on the different panorama software you have tried.

I understand very good, but this would take some pages to explain/compare difference, advantege etc. of different stiching software products.

Here's a summary to bring my personal experiences/votings in one sentence:
CS4 is good for panos, Hugin even better, PTGui is fantastic, AutopanoPro1.4 is a masterpiece of a software (there is a new version out, I've to buy it) Wink


PostPosted: Sat Aug 29, 2009 8:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

there is so much pano done these days. Your results are on the most good panos i have seen.
And that not just one, so many of them...
What a great howto...

PostPosted: Sun Aug 30, 2009 12:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm EXTREMELY impressed!! Very generous to share your technique and excellent results!!

PostPosted: Sun Aug 30, 2009 3:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Most awesome panoramas I've ever seen.
Thanks a lot for sharing!

PostPosted: Tue Sep 22, 2009 1:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gentlemen, Im really upset now.

I try to safe some money every month to improve my photo gear and each month I have a list what I want to buy and what is the priority. The wide angle lens was somwhere in lower levels of priority-gram, but after seing this tutorial and the result, it is attacking the top of list.

Tobbias: Do You print these panos? what is the standart size?

PostPosted: Thu Sep 24, 2009 3:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote


I printed about 10 panos so far. From the ones shown in this thread I printed this one on fine-art paper:

It was about 25 shots with SMC K 135/2.5 so the resolution is about 160 megapixel. I printed on 1,20X1,20meters and mounted it on a Kapa Fix Light plate. I can recomand this KapaFix really a lot, it has a self-gluing surface which works perfect, one can cut the plates easily with a normal carpet-knife.
For the mounting process I recomand to do it at least with 2 people, 3 better.


PostPosted: Sat Oct 17, 2009 5:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've only just noticed this. What a fantastic guide to something I've been struggling to get to grips with! It's an inspiration. Thanks.

PostPosted: Sat Dec 05, 2009 11:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Superb guide! Thank you Tobias! You are the panoman!

PostPosted: Sun Dec 13, 2009 8:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

First of all, it's a great tutorial. Thanks
Now, don't know if I missed or it's not mentioned but what software did you use for the panos ? never tried but now seems I will and I would like to know which software to use.

PostPosted: Sat Jul 17, 2010 1:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am embarrassed to say i have just seen this thread for the first time.

Shocked Thanks very much Tobias, i have only recently started playing with panoramas, in the past i have always discounted them due to the wildly exaggerated examples i saw. I then started to realise how great they could be if done in moderation.

Your images are the perfect example of a perfect Panorama. I have only just finished my first shots a couple of days ago, and i am excited about refining my skills, your "how to" will be invaluable.

Interestingly, i have been enjoying using longer lenses for my panos, my first few have been using a Leica Elmarit R 135 on my 1.7 crop Sigma body. However looking at your examples using 20 - 50 mm lenses are very inspiring, i have a lot to learn. Thanks for this wonderful guide.

PostPosted: Fri Aug 20, 2010 2:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fantastic tutorial !
Your shots have great sense of power and presence .

PostPosted: Fri Aug 20, 2010 8:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Shocked woaw! Your images are fantastic, and the tutorial is great: clear, precise, meaningful.

I did some test shots this summer, but my first attempt with the software was not sasisfying (it didn't find correspondances properly). Reading this mad me want to try again Smile

PostPosted: Mon Aug 30, 2010 2:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Second try, with AutoStitch this time. Much better from stitching point of view. I admit, it's an AF lens: Sigma 20mm 1.8

PostPosted: Sun Nov 28, 2010 3:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you so much!!!