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How to Shoot the Frames for a Panoramic Photo with Your Digital SLR

After you’re ready to shoot frames, grab your dSLR camera and tripod (if you’re going to use it) and go find an interesting subject — the wider or taller, the better.

Then follow these steps to set up and shoot frames:

1

Set up your camera. If desired, mount and level your camera on a tripod.

This step doesn't apply if you’re shooting a hand-held panorama. Although the frames may be a bit messier, it’ll still work.

Normally, your camera should rotate about an axis that's as true to vertical as you can get it. Rotate your camera and make sure it stays level when you point it in a different direction. Use what you see through the viewfinder to ensure that the scene is level.

2

Attach the remote shutter release, if necessary.

Just plug it in and you're set.

3

Determine a framing strategy.

This step may sound overly complicated, but it may only take you a moment.

Consider width/height: Quickly (or for a really long time) consider how wide or tall you want your panorama to be and how many shots you think it’ll take to capture it with your current lens.

Check landmarks: Note key landmarks along the way that will help the software stitch the frames together. Try to put them in more than one shot.

Center it: Try to center the most important elements of the scene (especially the main subject) in a frame.

4

Try to overlap each frame by about one-third.

Overlap helps the panorama program stitch (assemble) the frames by providing good reference points. The more reference points, the greater the possibility of a successful stitch.

5

Perform a dry run, if desired.

If you need to, visualize each shot by looking at it through your viewfinder or LCD monitor, pan, and look at the next one. Check out the landmarks that help you identify the boundaries of your frames and how much overlap occurs.

The corners of buildings, bridge supports, stairs, trees, poles, debris, and other elements with lots of contrast make good landmarks. Look for things that stand out from the background for your landmarks. Vertical objects seem to work best.

If you have a tripod with a compass, you can make a note of the reading for the center point of each frame.

Take a few meter readings along the way to see whether exposure varies from one side of the panorama to the other. If you like, check your camera’s histogram to make sure you’re not blowing out any highlights. Decide on a final exposure if you're using Manual mode.

If you’re in extreme doubt, shoot a bracketed panorama (manually or automatically). Compare each bracket of each frame against the others and choose the best exposures. You can also turn it into an HDR panorama.

6

Pan to the leftmost frame.

Sure, you can start on the right side, if you want. Only personal preference says that you have to shoot one way over another.

7

Shoot the first frame.

Make sure you get all the detail you want out of each frame.

8

Pan and shoot the second frame.

Continue shooting until you have shot all the frames you would like for your finished panoramic photo.

If necessary, continue shooting frames to complete the panorama.

The photography is over after you shoot each frame of the panorama. The rest of the work happens in software.

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