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Panorama photography for travellers

Panorama photography for travellers

By on Jul 21, 2015 in Photo Opportunity, Photography, Photography Lessons, Travel Lessons | 0 comments


Ever stood on a mountain surveying the scene with a camera in hand and realised you just couldn’t do the scene justice in a single photo. It’s been the bane of may photographers and especially travelling photographers. Travellers see so many beautiful expanses, magical river, enormous mountain ranges, cityscapes. In the past experienced photographers would take a series of photos. With care they made sure each image overlapped and exposure remained the same over the whole series. It required a steady hand a good manual camera and a way of estimating image overlay. Rather fiddly, expensive and time consuming not the sort of thing your could do on the spur of the moment. Added to this back in the office it would require many hours of image rectification and advanced software or photo processing technique to stitch these images together.

Lake Windermere Cumbria UK

Lake Windermere Cumbria UK

Since IOS 6 Panorama mode has been part of the iPhone’s camera. Just tap the camera icon, choose pano on the camera mode selector and pan the camera slowly from one side to another to create a high-resolution panoramic photograph. The pano mode enables the photographer to scan a view and automatically stitch that view into a hi definition panorama image. No messing around with exposure, estimating overlap or post processing. Just point and pan to create a panorama image with no redundant areas and pre cropped to give the best rectilinear view of the scene. Point and shoot just became point and pan for great panorama photography for travellers.

Taking Great Panorama Photos with an iPhone.

The IOS software does a good job of setting exposure, merging and cropping a series of slither images taken by the phone held in portrait mode. If the camera is held very still and rotated continuously about a single vertical axis the camera will produce a image approximately 2458 pixels high and up to 12000 pixels wide. While this isn’t a super large image in terms of modern day RAW digital images. It’s still quite impressive for your average point and shoot holiday snap photographer.

So how do you to take a great panoramic photo?  There are a few basics you need to remember on top of the basic operation of the app.

  • position of the sun
  • proximity of objects
  • light and shadow
  • moving objects

Position of the sun

Whenever you point the camera towards the sun you will need to change the exposure to compensate for the increased light. In pano mode this doesn’t appear to be possible, so keeping in mind where the sun is will improve the overall quality of the panorama. As you can see in the pano of Lake Windermere above I started panning right to left to capture the majority of the scene with appropriate exposure but as the sun passes directly in front of me the light increased giving the scene a washed out look.  As I continued panning and pointed up the lake the exposure setting became more appropriate again.

Light and shadow

As always light and shadow play a big part in any photo including a panoramic photo. It is possible to get shadows on the right of the image to lean one way and on the left to lean the other making the image look total skewed.

Kings Park Perth

Kings Park Perth

This panorama of Perth’s Sky line from Kings Park above is an example of the things that can go wrong. It wasn’t very well thought out. The image shows some of the obvious problems you can experience on a bright day with long shadows. To the naked eye the scene seemed devoid of shadows but the exposure setting in panoramic mode highlighted the shadow cast by the trees behind me. Something I didn’t notice at the time. Secondly the number of people moving around in frame produced and interesting close range effect but spoils the over all panorama. Quite a shame considering how magnificent the view.

Proximity of objects

By definition all photography has some form of distortion caused by projecting a three dimensional scene onto a two dimensional surface though a circular lens. However very wide angle images have even more distortion. All linear objects will appear curved and the curvature will increase the further they are from the central point of the photo. So keep this in mind and try and keep your panoramas field of view as narrow as possible. That means make sure the important features are in the middle and you don’t extend excessively either side of this mid point. It’s hard some times to get everything so you just keep panning the camera but it’s probably worth making two panorama rather than just one big one. Even with panoramas it’s still not possible to get everything in unless you want to use something like Googles Photosphere or 360 Panoramas. Which are really easy to do with a smartphone also. I might write a post on this technique some day.

Moving object

Moving objects are always difficult in photos but especially trouble some in panorama photos. Any object that moves while you take a panorama image will have the potential to appear ghosted through out the image or appear incomplete. For example a person walking across your panorama image may appear to be missing limbs. The software is likely to merge two parts of the image one with the person and one without, leaving the person with body parts missing. As has happened to Seb in this panorama. He is missing an arm and part of his foot.

what happens when you have movement in your Panorama

what happens when you have movement in your Panorama

Panorama left to right and right to left.

One of the under utilised feature of the iPhone panorama camera is the direction toggle. If you touch the arrow the camera will change orientation so you scan right to left rather than left to right.

Panorama up and down

You can use the panorama vertically it works just as well.  As we mostly end up standing at the base of something tall. The object we are photographing will look kind of bent. Remember to hold the camera in landscape and scan bottom to top.

Fun things to do with a panoramic camera.

Horizon to Horizon Panorama

We have had fun with the pano feature in a number of way. Firstly don’t be afraid to pan vertically right over your head from horizon to horizon. Makes a rather interesting view.

Get a person to appear multiple times within a Panorama Photograph.

Panorama Fun in Perth Park

Panorama Fun in Perth Park

Panorama Fun with Ben and Seb  in Perth Park

Panorama Fun with Ben and Seb in Perth Park

with Ben and Seb on Dunes in Perth

with Ben and Seb on Dunes in Perth

The boys and I have a lot of fun making panoramas where the boys appear in the image several times. To do this start panning with the subject in view. ( they must stand very still ) Once you are certain they have been captured tell them, to run behind you in the counter direction to your pan and reposition in the scene at another location before you pan to that location. With a very slow pan and some pre planning where subjects will stand you can make them appear two or three times in the same panorama.

How to share large Panoramas photos to tell your travel story

Panoramas are often very high resolution, large files that look ridiculously small on your smartphone and tablet without doing the zoom pan zoom pan routine. So how can we use these images.

You can embed them into a web page as I have done here where they open into a full page image that the user can pan and zoom using a browser. But what about social media and other platforms.

As panoramas have become more regular photographs there are services and website emerging which specialise in just panoramic photographs. So to help you out I’ll list a few options below I’ve tried and used to handle panoramic photography for both social media and sharing with family and friends on the web.


Instagram only really handles square images but they will upload a 15 second video so some bright spark came up with the Instapan app which converts a panoramic image into a video of varying time length. After playing around with the app a little I’ve used it very successfully to share panoramic views on Instagram.

Here’s what it looks like on YouTube

You can also watch it from my frostcovered Instagram account if you click the image below.

Instapan video hosted on Instagram of Windermere Lake

Instapan video hosted on Instagram of Windermere Lake


Google handles Panorama images

Google has a suite of photo applications and websites that handle panoramic images with ease. At the core of these is the Picasa website and its closely linked Google+ and Google Drive accounts. They will soon all become one under the Google+ banner if you believe all the current rhetoric on the web. That aside they supply a great place to host your panoramic images in the cloud for free.

Picasa, Google Drive & Google Plus

Picasa and Google Plus work together. Any image you place in the Google Plus account seems to appear in your Picasa account, but the reverse isn’t always true. I believe Picasa also monitors the Google drive account linked to your Google username and add those images into the Picasa store. Either way the Picasa desktop tool and the IOS Google Photos application are the tools you need to get your panoramic photos into the Google system and up in the Cloud. The Google+ uploader works but I’m still having trouble working out exactly how this one fits in. The Google+ IOS application does have the best photo viewer and photo editor of all the tools but really only lets you share the images on your Google+ timeline so I find this limiting as we use all the major social media site to share our stuff.

Panoramic images are large they do use up your google drive space so don’t be surprised. I use the IOS Google Photo application most often to upload the panoramic images I want to share straight from my iPhone. First I’ll make them slightly more appealing by using the Photos app to adjust the lighting and colour saturation. I’ve tried using the Google Photo app to modify the images but it does some funny things to panoramic photos so I am sticking with the Photo app for the moment.

Unfortunately the Google Photo application only shows square thumbnails which makes it hard to find your panoramic images amongst all the others. So I use the panorama album in the Photo app to find the images and guess what it might look like in square format before scrolling through the Google Photo app to select images to upload. To upload the image simply tap it and assign it to the album in your Google Plus account.

The IOS Photo application has a hidden feature which you should be aware. Panorama images will appear in the panorama album in the Photo app immediately after you take them. However if you edit the image within the app it will no longer appear in the panorama album. Apparently edited panoramic images are no longer panoramas.  Initially I though the images were lost but eventually found them in the timeline. This “feature” is quite annoying.

Sharing your Panorama images

Getting the images into the Google system is only the first step. The next step is to share your images with the world or at least friends and family.

Google Drive

The best way to share the images privately is to share them from Google drive. Simply find the image in your drive account and click the share link. Copy the link URL and send it to someone. Its the easiest way to share with people you like/love and the Drive image viewer is fast and handles panoramic images well.

Share Google Photos with Google Drives

One of the first things you need to do is to make sure you link your Google Photos with your Google Drive account. So images uploaded to your Google+ account appear in your Google Drive

Share a a photo from Google drive

Select the image you would like to share and click one of the icons highlighted. The first will create a link URL you can share on the web or into an email. The second will enable you to add the persons email address and a short message.

Share a photo from Google drive

The email share popup has both the email fields and a get link button.

Share a photo from Google drive photo viewer

Even when you are viewing the image you can still share the image using the icons on the top of the screen

Google maps

Once images and especially panoramic images are in the Picasa account they can easily be added to Google Maps where they can be shared with lots of people all over the world.

Panoramio website run by Google is designed to let users upload images for submission to Google Maps and Google Earth. About once a month images are reviewed and if they meet the Google guidelines are most usually added to Google Maps and sometimes Google Earth systems. Panoramio doesn’t have any limit on image size and storage space as long as the images have geo position so its a perfect place to store your largest images.

Kings Park Perth

Kings Park Perth

Its also pretty cool to have your images visible on Google Maps and Google Earth. Panoramio lets people comment on your geographically located images so its another little know social media site perhaps its eventual integration with Google+ will make it more common place.

Facebook and Twitter

There is a site called that lets you upload hi resolution images to display on both Facebook and Twitter.

Simply visit drag a photo to the page and it will be uploaded to their server. Once there choose from the icons at the top to share on Facebook or Twitter. You can also add the image to a forum or website by using the BB embed code or the image url.

Facebook post using the site

Facebook post using the site

Panorama Uploaded Image uploaded to

Panorama Uploaded Image uploaded to

The only issue I have with this website is they place an ad right in the middle of the page after a few minutes and you need to click the X (close box) and submit the ad as blocking the page so you can view the whole image clearly.

Panorama Uploaded Image uploaded to

Panorama Uploaded Image uploaded to

It doesn’t look quite as good on twitter as visitors have to follow the link to view your panorama.

Personally I prefer sharing my panorama’s from Panoramio the Google Maps Staging site. It has a button for Google+, Twitter and email under the image. I use the comment and URL provided for the Twitter share to share my images on Facebook. Again the nice feature of Panoramio images is the ability for people to make comments on the images within Panoramio.

Google+ photos also provides a nice share button with Google+, Facebook and Twitter. But no comment facility attached to the image itself. If you want viewer engagement you need to post the image to Google+ timeline so people can comment on the post and then share the Google+ post on Twitter and Facebook.

Blog Post

I could use the Panoramio link in my blog post but I prefer to add panoramas straight from my Picasa account. I uploaded via Picasa Desktop or the Google Photo app and then visit my Picasa account to reveal the hosted link to the Panorama on the Google Cloud. It a simple process to then add the Panorama image to a blog using this  simple link.

Here is a little secret about the google URL’s (which works at the moment and I hope it will stay because its very powerful for travel bloggers).

If you open your Picasa album and select an image and then right click to copy the image URL and view that URL it will look something like this you will notice the part I have bolded. It sets the size of the image s500-Ic42 as 500 wide. (Not certain what Ic42 stands for)

Wrekin 500px Panorama

Wrekin 500px Panorama

by changing the bold part to s300-Ic42 the image width becomes 300 wide

Wrekin Telford 300px wide panorama

Wrekin Telford 300px wide panorama

I have made both the above thumb nails link to the following URL

which is 2048px wide as is shown in bold within the URL. If I’d replaced the s2048-Ic42 with s0-Ic42, then the image which opens in the browser would be the full size panorama. Which in this case is 8852px  wide and  2458px high or pretty big.

Click link to see this huge image of the Wrekin on Google.

Share your travel photo’s and travel panorama’s

All your great travel images should be shared to inspire people to get off the couch and go see this wonderful world. You’ll never know if one of your images has changed a persons life for certain but if you don’t share them its certain they won’t have an effect on anyone. So share them where ever you can.

The next post in this series will be about organising and storing your travel photos. “Photographic evidence that your a traveller”

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Up Sticks N Go father of the crew. Works as a Social Media Manager and Website Optimiser with Michon International. Helps business develop automated systems to manage their social media, content creation and long term SEO strategies. This includes optimising websites to convert visitors into customers and track the value of a business website. Follow Simon on Twitter @becauseihadto , connect with him on LinkedIn Simon Frost and stay in touch.

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