Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Interior panoramic of Artist's Home

360 panoramic photography conveys space in a completely different way to standard lens photography especially when using the images in combination with a 360 player. It allows the user to explore the space in a less prescriptive manner and focus on their personal interest within the interior.

360 photography puts everything on display! (- or rather appears to do so). Few blemishes can be hidden by framing the shot. This is part of the beauty of panoramic photography - a much richer environment where 'views' are seen in context and the user is allowed to immerse themselves in the environment. If you dont see the 360 player please rollover the blank white space below.

The two panoramic photographs where shot for interior design site They feature the home of an English sculptress. The level of detail in the kitchen just lends itself to exploration. All the tins and knick knacks and quirky items are just screaming out for discovery.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Panoramic photography of historic houses

I love photographing old historic houses; it may be fraught with difficulty but well worth the effort. They often present the photographer with a wealth of textures and a richness of detail unparalleled in modern interiors. They also present a number of challenges.

Permission to create panoramic photographs – please!
One of the main issues is to get permission. Good panoramic photography just can't be done whilst the custodian is looking away. To obtain permission it's important to present a credible 'project'. What are you hoping to achieve? How will the images be used? What's in it for the house?
panoramic photography Anchers house in Skagen interior

You must also come across as a serious photographer. Ensure you show examples of other work you have created and supply references. This shouldn't put the new comer to photography off - an honest explanation of intentions to create a portfolio, or practise skills etc. is often meet with a willingness to help. Ensure you research the property's history and can work within the constraints of the house 'as is'. A request for a permission followed by a list of 'demands' rarely goes down well.

panoramic photography Michael and Anna Anchers house interior

The trouble with panoramic photography in Historic Houses
Historic houses are often museums, they hold valuable collections that must be cared for and protected and they are open to the general public. This may require you to work in low level light conditions, within barriers and with the risk of people getting in your way.

Historic bathroom interior panoramic image

Research the property before the day of the shoot. Get a clear idea of the shots you want, so you don't spend too much time setting up in the 'wrong' location. Talk to staff about busy periods so you can avoid those. Travel light and agree an area where you can safely 'dump' your things. Take out public liability insurance!

Kitchen interior of historic house paniramic photograph

The crucial bit is to get the first images done although they may not be perfect due to restrictions imposed on you. But, you will soon find a willingness to 'extend' your permission if you supply the House with images they can utilise on their website or in brochures.
  • Do your research
  • Get permission
  • Avoid busy periods
  • 'Travel light'
  • Take out public liability insurance
  • Give something back

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Panoramic Photography for Micro-stock

Panoramic photography tend not to do well on micro-stock sites. As they are often very wide they display poorly as a thumbnails and can be difficult to utilise in print and web that adheres to conventional dimensions. A traditional panoramic image will appear like a slim banner in most page layouts.

panoramic photograph of farm in Denmark
Section of 360 panoramic image
Micro-stock photography is all about mass-utilisation, successful panoramic images will have to adapt to the market. Either by playing to its strength as a slim banner or by not being 'very panoramic'

Panoramic images can be square
Very appealing and striking images can be made by using different projections when stitching panoramas. Some effects may be too extreme but used creatively they can enhance the message the image conveys.

panoramic image wrapped as small planet
The farm is a small universe
Think about the projection sometimes referred to as 'little planet'. It immediately conjures up ideas of self-containment. The subject becomes a universe in its own right. A panoramic of a farm is no longer just 'the farm' but the farm as a small self-contained universe.

panoramic image of garden and farm
Panoramic wide angle view of building and garden
But there are plenty of other creative possibilities creating extreme wide angle views in a 3:4 / 2:3 format and the possibility of making very high resolution photographs with smaller SLRs.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Panoramic photography, Level it up

Two axis bubble hot-shoe spirit level ideal for panoramic photography
Panoramic photography relies on precision. Creating great panoramic images with the least amount of effort requires that all equipment is level. A spirit level on your pan-head is essential but a two axis bubble level on your hot-shoe ensures the camera is mounted correctly vertically on the pan-head. Spinning the camera 360 degrees on the horizontal axis will reveal any lack in precision in your set up. But only if your spirit level is accurate!

Its amazing how many cheap and poor quality hot-shoe levels that are out there. What's the point of an inaccurate spirit level? Well, there is no point, its a waste of time, money and effort using a hot-shoe level that isn't accurate.

panoramic photography, artist Michael and Anna Anchers house in Denmark, Skagen
Panoramic image of Historic Anchers House in Skagen in Denmark

I Love my Manfrotto two axis bubble level
Manfrotto produce quality equipment and their spirit level is no exception. The Manfrotto two axis bubble level is precise and fits snugly on the hot-shoe. The Manfrotto level is 5-10 times more expensive than the cheapest on the market and look deceptively similar, but it has one major advantage - it is accurate!

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Panoramic Pan-head, Nodal-Ninja

Panoramic photography and 360 degree images were never easier to create, with the wealth of panoramic pan-heads and dedicated software now available.
panoramic photograph of garden 360 view
Many cameras have build in panorama facility with 360 stitching on the fly but for the serious panoramic photographer a quality panoramic pan-head is a must.

I love my Nodal Ninja
The Nodal Ninja range offer super quality and accuracy for its relatively low price tag. It is sturdy and easy to use even with a large professional SLR.Panoramic pan-head, Nodal Ninja
You will soon realise that accuracy is the mantra, when creating successful large scale panoramic images. A sloppy approach to recording image sequences will see you spend hours lining up images and retouching bad stitching. This is where a quality panoramic pan-head enters the picture.
A good pan-head:
  1. allows you to accurately align the rotation of your camera to its optical centre
  2. provides easy to use, accurately spaced and adjustable rotation increments
  3. is sturdy even with a large SLR mounted and does not start to wobble in a breeze
There is nothing worse than having your efforts spoilt by a badly designed  panoramic pan-head. I often use bracketed exposures, recording each image three times, so the final panorama is made up from over 100 images. This demands a panoramic pan-head that is easy to use and that you can trust.
One bad image can ruin a whole panorama! Or have you tearing your hair out in frustration spending hours in Photoshop.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Panoramic Photography, the Tripod

Tripod panoramic photography Manfrotto

Panoramic photography and tripods are inseparable especially when recording HDR where perfectly aligned multiple exposure are required.

Solid and Sturdy Tripod
The point of a tripod is obviously to have a sturdy support. Attach a panoramic pan-head on top of your tripod and maybe a levelling device and suddenly the weight of the camera is moved 30-50 cm above the base plate. This will affect not only the sturdiness of the tripod but also put strain on every nut and bolt in the tripod. But whilst you want your tripod to be solid you also have to consider its footprint.

Tripod Footprint for Panoramic Photography
camera head Manfrotto 460MGIf you record 360x360 degree panoramic images your tripod will feature in the final image. The footprint of the tripod is therefore an issue. The smaller the tripod footprint the less time spend in Photoshop cloning it out - but the narrower the tripod spans the more susceptible it is to movement.

One obvious place to cut down on the footprint is the tripod camera head. You may opt for a simple ball head with no large handle protruding out from the tripod but they can be a pain to adjust when trying to level the camera. Personally I prefer a compact camera head with small controls. It doesn't add to the footprint and it makes levelling much easier.

Tripod essentials for panoramic photography:

  • Sturdy also when the camera is placed above the base level on panoramic pan-head
  • Well designed joints and operations that can be locked solid without effort
  • easy and flexible adjustment controls for levelling
  • Small footprint
I love my Manfrotto tripod and 460MG Camera Head
The Manfrotto range consist of well designed quality tripods that balance weight, sturdiness and footprint well for the money. The joints and controls are fluid and easy to operate and they lock solid without effort. I didn't opt for the carbon option, although it would have been easier to carry, I find it a bit too light and expensive. Having said that, another tripod 'must have' is a small hook from which you can hang your camera bag, not for convenience but to add weight thus sturdiness to the tripod

Panoramic view of farm, 360 photography

There are loads of other quality tripods on the marked and the important thing to stress is that you get what you pay for – and cheap tripods just aren't worth bothering with – most are useless when it comes to panoramic photography

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Panoramic stitching software

Good panoramic stitching software saves a lot of headache and work. Although there are free packages available they often only really work on 'small' projects. On 360 x 360 degree panoramic images, when using multiple RAW exposures or large files, stable and powerful software is worth its weight in gold. There is nothing worse than spending hours tweaking and aligning images in a bad interface just to see the project freeze or crash part way through.

Achers house in Skagen, Denmark, panoramic photograph of living room

Stitching software comes in different configurations and some will include VR output to HTML or Flash. Personally I prefer stitching software that concentrates on the stitching part. Software that does both stitching and VR tours often involves a compromise in either the stitching or the VR part or come with a hefty price tag.

I love my PTGUI
PTGUI is based on Panorama Tools and is a specialist stitching Software. I have stitched perfect panoramic images consisting of over 250 high resolution RAW images, doing nothing more than selecting the files and output options. But, its when things go wrong that I really appreciate the ease of the manual controls.

PTGUI analysis stitching points and will guide you to the problematic ones with no more than a double-click. When creating manual stitching points the software will suggest an appropriate match making the process much faster.

The software automatically recognises multiple exposures. It links matching images and enables good exposure control and output to HDR.

When I have pre-viewed a stitch and I am happy with all alignments, I love playing with the perspective options. As I supply micro stock sites, where very wide images don't perform well, the ability to quickly change perspective and cropping is essential for me.

Panoramic stitching software essentials
  • Works with large number of files, large file sizes and RAW images
  • HDR ability, automatically linking sets of multiple exposures and good exposure control
  • Powerful and accurate automatic alignment of images with options for manual adjustment of stitching points
  • Flexible perspective settings
  • Good blending ability
  • Ability to output very large uncompressed files
  • Batch stitching