Indoor panorama

All forms of artistic expression have limitations and photography is no exception.

The painter can adjust the size of their canvas and include and exclude images and parts thereof to suit their wishes. The photographer cannot adjust so easily. When taking a photo of a landscape, one must choose a wide shot with lots of sky and foreground or be content with not as wide a view.

Since the beginning of photography, however, there have been ways to work around such choices: Use a wide angle lens and crop off the sky and foreground, cut and paste several photographs together, or use a specialized camera such as a Widelux, Horizon, or an ancient Kodak panoramic camera. With such cameras, a photographer might sometimes move the lens or the film during exposure to allow for a photograph wider than normal. My Horizon camera shoots frames that are twice as wide as those of a conventional 35mm camera—but it still has limits. 120 degrees is the maximum width of the scene and the fixed lens limits the height of the scene. Not bad for outdoor scenes but limiting for indoor shots.

Back in the 1990s, I was investigating 360° panoramas—which captured all directions horizontally but were limited vertically. Prior to the invention of Photoshop creating a 360° panorama meant either pasting several photographs together or using a 360° camera. Roundshot cameras were completely out of my price range so I started to build a Larscan camera based upon the inventors’ book of 1996, 360 degree Panoptic Photography Experiments. Alas, I did not have the workshop to build the camera they described. (There is, however, a modern, very simplified version of this camera sold by Lomo.) I had a brief conversation with one of the authors a couple of years ago. They said not to bother trying to build such a camera today; modern tools work better.

Saint Chappelle, Paris
Panoramas do not need to follow the horizon.
7  photos with 14mm lens. Handheld.

At the same time as I was exploring 360° cameras, I was using early versions of Photoshop and other digital imaging apps. Photoshop had just started doing layers but was about 15 years away from automated image stitching. There were other applications that did do image stitching, but they were very limited. The Apple QuickTime VR had stitching ability but I could neither afford an Apple computer nor the app. And the only apps available on Windows left very much to be desired. Time moved on and Photoshop did eventually start to offer the ability to automatically blend images to create panoramas.

Today, I shoot panoramas and stitch the photos together in Photoshop. I carefully set the camera on manual exposure and shoot a set of photos making sure there is lots of overlap between each shot. Photoshop does a nice job stitching a series of photographs in a single row, especially for scenes.

Best practice is to use a tripod, make sure the camera is level, and use a device to make sure each photograph is offset from the adjacent photograph by a pre-determined amount. But what about indoors when tripods are not allowed? The examples shown were shot with a 14mm lens, handheld in not great lighting. I use the camera’s built-in levelling device to make sure the camera is level and I try to make sure I have an overlap of 1/3 of the frame for each shot. I use manual focus and sometimes I bracket the exposure.


This ‘broken’ photo shows how Photoshop picks and chooses the parts of the photo it thinks would merge best. 
Looking at this you can quickly see that I was pointing the camera down a bit. I really should have got more of the Chagall ceiling. Paris Opera House.

7 photos with 14mm lens. Handheld

When does this not work? When one tries to do multi-row photos with a very wide angle lens. There are software packages available which will look for or allow the user to select alignment points. PTGUI Pro is one example.

Try creating stitched panoramas; the ceiling is the limit.


15 images using a 14mm lens.
Gallery Lafayette, Paris
Photoshop doesn’t always blend multi row panos. This time it did.

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