SONY DSLR Panorama - a tutorial
Welcome to Don’s Corner …
PART I: Shooting Panorama’s (hand held) with a SONY DSLR.
Now, this is a procedure, that if followed, step-by-step, it should provide a dandy looking “big picture.”
The one thing you need to understand when shooting a panorama, is that as you turn the camera for each segment of the image, the natural light usually changes also, and unless you lock your exposure (if you are using any other mode than “M” Manual Mode), the camera will alter the exposure right along with it, in an effort to provide a great SINGLE image, not part of the whole.
This makes for hard light transitions in the panorama which usually look like vertical lines in your sky. Very uncool. Therefore, you need to LOCK the exposure, with the “AEL” button. You need to hold this button down throughout the series of shots. If you let the pressure off of it, it resets and your panorama may be (and probably will be) corrupted. Yes, it is an important step.
Also, you need to understand that the panorama is an over-sized image. It still only has one subject … and THAT is what needs to be “in focus”, so autofocus will be to be stopped.
WARNING: It is vital that you do not move from the spot you have chosen for this procedure until the series of shots is finished. If you do, you threaten and probably will change the focus distance between you and your subject, throwing off the entire shot (unless the subject is out in infinity focus, of course)
- Ensure “SSS” is in the “On” position
- Locate your “AF/MF” button (There is none on the SONY A100, so don’t fret)
- Achieve focus: For your initial “test shot” (go ahead and take a few for trial … they are not part of the actual panorama-series), zero-in on your subject … autofocus on it clearly … then, press the “AF/MF” button on the back of the camera and hold it down with your right thumb. This locks the focus while you hold it down. (A100 users … press the shutter release half way down, thereby locking the focus and hold it).
- Focus Mode Switch change:
SONY A100 users: simply slide the AF/MF mode switch, on the front of the camera, alongside the left of the lens mounting base into the “MF” position. Release the pressure on the shutter release.)
All other SONY DSLRs: While continuing to hold the “AF/MF” button, reach around to the “Focus Mode” switch (located on the lower left front of the camera body and rotate it to the “MF”
The lens is, now, ready to “sweep” the area of the image, preset for accurate focus on your subject.
- Locate the “AEL” button on the upper, right-hand area of the back of the camera.
- Set the camera to “MULTI-SEGMENT” metering, if you already have not. (A100 – Mode switch on right top of camera, rotate completely to the right and press button to change) This provides meter of the entire frame and since this shot is larger than normal, I am betting no single point is all that important. If not, use “SPOT” metering.
- Now, reacquire the “subject” in the viewfinder’s frame. Tap the shutter release to activate metering. Set your setting for “0” in the meter by advance or retarding the shutter speed setting, changing the ISO or adjusting the aperture … then, press the “AEL” button and hold it down throughout the series.
- BUILDING YOUR PANORAMA: Following an imaginary horizontal-line running through your desired shot, turn to the left, to the left extreme of your desired panorama shot.
- With your eye, pick out a “landmark” that is about two-thirds of the frame, to the right.
- Take the first image and maintain that pressure on the “AEL” button. Do NOT let up!
- Turn to the right, until you get the left side of the frame aligned with the “landmark.” Pick out a new “landmark”, 2/3s of the frame to the right.
- Take the second image.
- Repeat the creeping along until you have gotten the entire panorama
- BEFORE you go and run off, review the Panorama, in the Playback Mode. Make sure it is all there. If there was a plane flying through or other sub-subject that you might want to eliminate from your work, you might just retake that frame(s).
- Once you are absolutely SURE that you have the shot you want, turn the “Focus Mode” switch back to the “AF-A” position, or you will be sorry, later on.
I highly recommend that you practice this several times in a “test environment”, because doing this at the real location can be challenging. Once you have a few rounds under your belt, feel free to make any exposure changes to accommodate flash or other lighting challenges.
You have just opened yourself to a wider world. :D
PART II - Making a panorama
PART II: Turning your series of shots into a “Big shot”
In Adobe Photoshop CS2/3:
- From the Main Menu bar "File" > "Automate" > "Photomerge…"
- Layout: Some people like “automatic” … I prefer using “cylindrical”
- Source Files: (Browse and select your series of image files)
- Press “OK”
- Save the new panorama and prepare to edit and crop as desired.
That is the basic way … there are other extra ideas that eliminate obstructions and other “problems” in the image.