It’s a disappointment: You climbed the 3000m with a lot of effort, but the photos of the fantastic panorama look simply boring. The solution lies in panorama photography: from a simple surface panorama to 360-degree views and spherical panoramas, there are all kinds of exciting perspectives.
The natural enemy of the panorama photographer are small shifts in perspective: you have to confront them with a steady hand and the right equipment.
With the 360-degree camera over the Golden Gate Bridge
It is one of the most photographed buildings in the world, we have the slightly different impression of the Golden Gate Bridge. Our 360-degree camera seems to fly over the famous bridge!
The principle: “Basically, you take several pictures that you put together afterwards,” explains Clemens Conrad, who photographed panorama pictures professionally for several years. It is important that the individual photos overlap at the edges, preferably by about 30 percent.
“With a fisheye lens with a wide-angle of almost 180 degrees, you only need two to four shots,” Clemens explains. The smaller the angle, the more shots are needed to cover the entire environment.
Software and Apps
Some cameras offer panorama settings, and for smartphones you can download apps. “The camera is panned over the panorama motif like a camcorder,” explains Constanze Clauß from the German Photo Industry Association.
Guide lines or grids indicate which areas still need to be photographed. “Most apps also draw attention to the fact that the camera or smartphone is accidentally tilted up or down,” Dieter Brors explains in “c’t” magazine. The app then immediately calculates the final picture.
Expansion of the smartphone camera: The bubblescope (around 33 euros) records 360-degree photos and videos in conjunction with the Bubblepix app.
Special software enables stitching, i.e. the assembly of the images on the PC. While the single photos of apps are automatically calculated to an overall picture, one can manually intervene here and correct possible errors.
“360-degree panoramas can also be saved as interactive panoramas that can be displayed on the PC with a special viewer such as QuickTime VR or Java Viewer,” says Brors. The viewer can then rotate the subject in all directions and zoom in on the image. VR glasses further enhance this tour effect.
“Effective pictures require a very clean approach,” emphasizes Constanze Clauß. A wobble, a small step, and the perspective is already shifted. “If you want to create high-quality panoramas, you can’t avoid a camera with a tripod and, if possible, a panorama head and suitable PC software,” says Dieter Brors.
The tripod is necessary to position the camera without wobbling, the panorama head makes it tiltable. Ambitious photographers also use a so-called nodal point adapter.
The pivotal point
Normally the pivot is the camera, explains photographer Conrad. To avoid distortion when the panorama is put together, the camera must rotate around the nodal point. This is usually not where the tripod is mounted, but further forward towards the lens. Nodal point adapters allow the camera to rotate around this axis.
Those who work with the smartphone should try to turn around the mobile phone instead of around their own axis. Because the problem of the apparent change of the position of an object when the observer moves his own position (parallax), but with more distant objects hardly notices, panoramas of landscapes with the mobile phone are usually no problem.
“The further away the subject is, the easier it becomes,” Conrad explains this basic rule. If you also want to show the ground on your panorama, you should choose a monochrome background without complicated structures. This makes it easier to retouch the tripod position later.
“In direct sunlight, the sun probably appears only as a white ball and dark areas almost black,” adds photographer Conrad. This problem is most serious in dark rooms with brightly lit windows. This is where exposure series can help.
A special feature are cameras with several lenses that can record a complete spherical panorama and even 360-degree videos. These include Ricoh’s Theta models (around 200 to 400 euros) and LG’s 360 Cam (around 250 euros), which all have a 180-degree lens on both the front and back of the camera.
Even more lenses sometimes have ball-shaped models such as the Panono (around 1500 euros) or the 360Fly (around 500 euros), which can be thrown into the air like a ball and take pictures from this perspective.