About a month ago I got a question from a client if I could shoot a 360 degree panorama in his event center. I had to answer: “No I can’t do that for you at the moment, because I don’t have the gear and the software to do that”. Because I got this question earlier from somebody else and I decided to buy a Nodal Ninja 4 panorama head for my tripod and started to experiment with 360 degree panorama photography. In this article I want to share some of my first experiences in this new type of photography for me as a professional photographer.
I’m not the first photographer that starts with 360 degree panorama photography. Because of that you can find loads of information about it on the internet. I want to share some good sources with you:
- First of all, if you want to look for a Nodal Ninja panoramic head: http://shop.nodalninja.com/
- The best and most used software for stitching panorama’s is PTGUI. Although it takes a little longer to learn this software, it has all the options that I need: http://www.ptgui.com/
- Some basic information about Panorama Photography you can find on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panoramic_photography
- The website of Florian Knorn from Sweden contains a lot of information, tutorials and inspiring examples of 360 photography: http://www.pano.ie/
- Panorama Photographer John Houghton has a lot of tutorials on his website. They are definitely worth to read: http://www.johnhpanos.com/tuts.htm
- The website of the German twin brothers Markus and Jürgen Matern has some great and inspiring examples: http://www.panotwins.de/
This is just a tip of the iceberg of information you can find online.
How to find your nodal point and shoot your 360 degree panorama
The main reason you need a special head for your tripod is because when you make a 360 degree panorama you have to turn your camera around the nodal point of your lens. What exactly the nodal point is and how you can find it, is clearly explained in this YouTube-Video: Panoramic photography - how to find the Nodal Point (no parallax point) of your lens.
So you have a panorama head and set it at its nodal point. Now you are ready to go and shoot your 360 degree panorama. Follow the followings steps:
- Choose a good and interesting spot to shoot your panorama.
- Level your tripod with the level in your panorama head. This can be pretty bothersome. Extra additions to your panorama head can ease this.
- Attach your camera to the panorama head.
- Try to seek an aperture and shutter speed that will yield a reasonable good histogram. Shoot a couple of frames in the darkest and the lightest part of the area you are going to cover in your panorama. In contrasty situations this can be impossible. The solution is shooting bracketed exposures. Find out how many stops you need! The Pro version of PTGui can handle this without a problem. As long as the darkest exposure in the darkest area doesn’t get too dark. For the software it is impossible to match the photos when it tries to stitch the different photos.
- Make sure you set your camera on manual exposure, Automatic White balance off and autofocus switched off.
- Now you are ready to shoot your first panorama.
- Depending on your lens you have to shoot a photo, turn your head a number of degrees, shoot again, etc till you covered the full 360 degree circle.
- Depending on your lens you have to repeat this procedure to cover the full 360 degree horizontal and 180 degree vertical area around your camera.
- Try to avoid moving objects near the edge of the frame. This can cause stitching problems.
- If you are shooting outside and during the shooting procedure the sun is covered by clouds, this can cause exposure issues. Or too dark areas in your panorama, comparing to areas that were shot with the sun present. Ideally you can start and shoot your panorama in one continuous and fluent cycle.
These are the basics of shooting the panorama in the field. Make sure that you are concentrated and focused on shooting the panorama. The procedure is not very difficult, but need concentration to avoid making mistakes!
Some examples of the panorama’s I shot:
My article on June 26 will learn you how you can shoot 360 degree panorama’s with your smartphone. So if you don’t have a tripod with panorama head, stay tuned! ;-) It will be fun! In later articles I will talk about the software to create a panorama.
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