Tag Archives: Portrait vs landscape

Panorama photography – an introduction

Panorama photography | Photokonnexion.com

• Panorama photography •
There are a few important essentials to think about.
(Image taken from the video)

Getting started is easy…

Panorama photography is a great way to extend your photography skills. To make a panorama you take a whole string of shots. Then later you match them up in software and “stitch” them together to make one long image. The photographic variables are all fixed. You take lots of photos. But, only have to set the camera up once. This means you can concentrate on the scene.

Examples of panorama photography on Google images xxxx | External link - opens new tab/page

The essentials of panorama photography

Like any aspect of photography you need to have some essentials. Your camera and a lens get you started. But a tripod will give you more consistent results. It provides you with a firm platform. One that you can use to line up all the shots. A tripod is recommended because hand holding the shots can leave you with a whole bunch of badly aligned frames. Panorama photography is all about getting the full range of a scene. If you miss bits or fail to get neat alignment the image will loose its continuity. The eye is drawn a way from the image to the imperfections of the stitching.

To use a tripod properly you should also use a good tripod head. Set the camera up to get the scene you want. In this composition phase you will need to sweep through the shot. Look through the viewfinder and pan around the full scene. Get the tilt of the camera right. Have a clear idea of your sweep. Then, fix your tripod head so the camera will sweep through an arc without moving up or down. It will only pan “left <---> right” as needed. In the video you will see him using a “pan and tilt” tripod head. Once the scene is selected the tilt aspect is fixed.

Using the tripod and head means you will get an aligned sweep through your scene. This makes it easy to line up (stitch) the pictures together later. The fixed camera angles helps make alignment easy. But fixing the other settings also helps get consistent results.

Settings for the shots

There are some things that make panoramic photography easy. To get the best effect make each shot simple. Each should have settings the same as its neighbour. Wide variations of settings between shots make colours, brightness, tone and even focus create bad matches. The joins between images will show where the settings change. This disturbs the flow of the eye through the image. Here is a list of steps you go through to set up the camera – and why.

Focal length: As with the other critical settings set focal length to a fixed position. You should switch your auto-focus to manual so the focus does not change in each shot. Then, manually focus into the scene at a place that will give you good sharpness and depth. Then this should be left unchanged throughout the panorama photography sequence.

The exposure dial: Auto exposure settings change as you pan across different light levels. To avoid each frame being a different exposure use the “M”, or manual setting. Set up the exposure for the first shot. Then, keep that exposure setting through the the entire string of images. This means you will need to fix the settings for the full range of shots.

Aperture: Panorama photography is mainly about wide sweeping scenes. Landscapes are ideal. To make the scene realistic it is best to have sharpness right through the scene. Picking F11 is a good option for that. Practice your panorama photography with that F-stop to start. Once you have the techniques you can get more creative later.

Shutter speed: Hold the shutter speed fixed too. Your shutter speed depends on how you set your ISO, and the aperture too. However, don’t just think about the first frame. Study the entire scene. Is there going to be any variations in light intensity across all the shots? You want all the shots to have a similar exposure level. So do some test readings or shots with your camera light meter. Work out how much the scene varies. Avoid big light variation. It will make consistent exposure levels difficult. Look for even light across the scene. Then, find a shutter speed that will work well for all the shots.

ISO: As with the other settings, you want to hold the ISO. Choose a setting which suits the scene and ambient light overall. Fix it for all the shots.

White balance: RAW or *.jpg this is one time you MUST set the white balance to a fixed setting. If you use auto-white balance you will NOT be able to match the frames later. While white balance is generally quite stable, a colour cast from one bright reflection can significantly change the colour. That would not matter too much on one image. But it will if you have to try to match ten images each with a different white balance. That will end up giving your panorama photography a patchwork effect. Choose a white balance setting and stick with it for all the shots.

Getting the shots

Panorama photography calls on more than just scene composition and settings. Also critical is “overlap”. You want to join the images so they match. That means overlapping them in a way that allows a good join.

The skill is in picking features in your landscape you can use in the matching process. I like to use patterns or textures where possible. In the software you are going to line up each image with its neighbour. Those patterns or textures allow you to make a join look seamless. So, as you go through the scene make a mental note of where you want the join to be. Rotate the camera on the tripod for each shot. Make enough overlap each side of the frame for those points to line up. This is clarified more in the video at the end.

Landscape or portrait shots can be used for panorama photography. All the pictures need to be taken in one or the other. If you use landscape format the panorama will be very long and thin. If you use portrait format the stitched image will not be so thin. But you will need to take more shots to get the whole scene. You might choose differently for each scene. It is your choice. These choices are a key skill in panorama photography. Think carefully about your composition.

Panorama photography video tutorial

Most of the above are explained in the context of the shot sequence in this video. Panorama photography is great fun, but it does require a little thinking ahead and planning your sequence. The video should help you to fix the method and settings in your head.
What Digital Camera

Stitching the image together

There are two basic methods of stitching the final image. Again this is one of the main skills in panorama photography. You can do the work manually in an image editor. This work can be a lengthy and detailed process. Each image needs to be lined up by the patterns or textures you chose on the image as the overlaps. Then you might need to clone the images together. Bit by bit and image by image you can build up your final sequence. If you enjoy detailed image editing it is very rewarding.

The second method of joining the images is to use stitching software. There are lots of different applications available. Which one you use is a matter of personal choice. Some image editors have panorama photography stitching built in. For more advanced users there is also specialist software. These applications are available with a range of functions and prices. You should do some experiments and research to pick your preferred software.

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Landscape verses Portrait – page orientation

Sometimes page orientation is dictated by subject... but there are other reasons to pick a particular format

Sometimes page orientation is dictated by subject... but there are other reasons to pick a particular format

There are a many reasons to choose portrait view

Landscape orientation is where a page or picture has the longest side on the horizontal. The picture above is in the portrait view – the longest side is upright. The use of the term ‘page orientation’ refers to either horizontal (landscape) or upright (portrait).

Of course there is more to it than that. In most cases we also consider the aspect ratio. In most SLR formats the aspect ratio is 4 to 3 (or 4:3 as it is written). This means four units along the long axis. And upwards, 3 units tall. This is a typical landscape view. Wider screens on televisions in recent years has introduced a new format of 16:9 although this is not seen as a common format for still photographs.

The current norm is for SLR video formats to be the same 4:3 of the still images. Normally the aspect ratio is considered only for landscape view – a ratio is not given for portrait view.

When taking a picture the photographer needs to consider orientation as part of the composition decision. It is probably true to say that the starter SLR-photog generally uses landscape orientation. It is a natural position since the shutter release is in a naturally comfortable position.

So what makes you turn your camera sideways and change the page orientation to take a portrait shot? There could be a number of good reasons. So here are a few ideas to keep you thinking…

Subject orientation

If your subject is long and upright then it is pretty natural to take it in an upright framing. Despite how natural it is, many people take the picture in landscape, then crop the shot afterwards. This is wasting a compositional opportunity and image space. If you take the shot in portrait from the start it lets you get close to the shot and fill the frame.

Page orientation drives the framing decision. The same framing opportunities arise in portrait as do in landscape. You just have to practice the framing.
Exercise: Go out for a day. Take only portrait view shots. Consider every one as carefully, or more carefully, than your normal landscape shots.

Panorama shots
So panorama shots are in landscape view? Yes. But the best panorama shots are frequently made of portrait shots digitally stitched together along the long axis. This assembly gives them the height and width needed to make up a substantial picture in panorama format. Understanding the portrait format gives you an appreciation of the type of framing needed to master panorama landscape work. So, even in panorama work the page orientation is crucial.
Images in text: page orientation is an essential consideration

If you are planning to contribute to a publication you learn how to take portrait shots. Editors are often more interested in the portrait view. It will fit into one column. That will give the editorial more space to tell the story. Editors like this format. If you wish to be published cultivate your skills in portrait view.


Portraiture can easily be done in landscape format but has an odd feel. It is important to make page orientation comfortable for the eye. The portrait format is ready made for capturing the upright nature of the natural portrait. We would normally give a wide orientation to something that is moving. The landscape view provides space to move into. In portraits there is often no movement or implied movement. The taller, thinner format helps the person pictured to engage with the viewer. An upright page orientation helps the picture sides to hold in the viewer’s eye to the portrait subject.
Exercise: Try a traditional portrait format and see if you think the portrait orientation is more effective. You will need to shoot a number of different shots to get the feel for it. Try different lighting conditions too.

Page orientation is also about presentation

The need for upright formats is not just about what is in the picture. It might also be about the way the picture is to be used. A picture may be chosen for its shape. Often a picture purchase is made to fit in a place which needs that format. A long thin alcove in a wall suits a long thin picture format. Taking the picture with that page orientation better suites the situation than cropping afterwards. How a picture will be used is a reason to frame a picture that way. Page orientation is a composition and presentation decision.


If you are taking a picture with words in it think about your page orientation.

It is easy to forget that very wide pages make reading difficult. Landscape view will hinder reading if the text spans the page. If you must use that page orientation with text find ways to keep the text from going across the page.

Using landscape format may be a good idea if the meaning of the text is unimportant. Where the impact of text is stronger than its meaning then you can span the image for effect. For example, the name of a café may not be as significant as the run down and decaying feel of the old building and its name sign. The impact may be more in the other elements of the scene. The importance of reading the text is minimised. Reducing the impact of text in an image is often a good idea as the eye is drawn to it. This can reduce the impact of the rest of the picture. Try to strike a balance. It may be better to use landscape with text if you want to include other things in the image.

If for some reason you are setting up a picture to take text then consider the portrait view. It will make the shot easier and your viewer will appreciate it. The reading will be more comfortable and quicker. This will take the emphasis off the text and allow the reader to quickly move on to the rest of the image.

Exercise: Paste a page of text into a word processor page. Set the page to landscape view. Print it out. Easy to read?

Page orientation as an eye stop

Artists and photographers often use the page orientation as a way to control the eye. The landscape page orientation helps the eye to flow from one side to the other. You can use other elements in the page to help keep the eye move around. The right sort of content in a picture can stop the eye moving out of the page. For example, a tree trunk on the edge of a landscape page tends to act as a natural stop to the eye, directing it upward into the canopy. The eye can then flow back the other way.

The use of a portrait format naturally causes the eye to move upward or downward. Where it is important to stress the up/down impact of an image use portrait view. Portraits, are a classic example. Other examples might be trees, or tall architectural images. The power in the image is controlling the eye between the image sides.

Page orientation is also a resolution issue

Where page orientation is a bad match for the composition, all is not lost. It is easy to crop the image to bring out the content in a new page orientation. However, consider the resolution for a minute. If you have to crop out a segment of the picture you may be affected by resolution. Artefacts, lack of sharpness, poor resolution and blur are all enhanced by a crop. Changing the page orientation makes these more likely to affect the final image. Consider the correct orientation from the start. Then you will not be faced with these quality issues.


The context of landscape or portrait orientation is the important thing. There is no reason to assume that either format is best. Pay attention to the needs of the composition or context in which the image is used. Clearly both upright or horizontal have their place. It is down to you to decide page orientation. My main point is, don’t ignore poor old portrait view. It can lead to some stunning compositions. It would be a shame to miss out on the benefits.

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Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.