I’m not going to shy away from saying this: correctly done panoramas are amazingly awesome. One of the neat features I like, and still occasionally use, on my NEX-7 is the built-in ‘sweep panorama’. It takes a succession of frames in the direction of your choice, and stitches them all together in-camera. Pretty cool right? Except, the photographer is limited to auto-ISO, the shutter speed is locked at 1/500 (for manual lenses), and the combining algorithms cut off a good portion of the top and bottom of whatever you were framing. Also, being limited to the JPEG filetype (instead of RAW), there is little room for post-processing, so scenes of dynamic range are almost impossible to accurately capture…
The “real” way (of which there are many variants) to do panoramas is to take multiple frames on a level tripod, batch edit them, then combine them all with a rather expensive program like Photoshop Creative Suite Extended. With the various plug-ins available to that program from third-parties, the possibilities are endless.
The problem is, I’m pretty cheap, and I don’t feel like pirating Photoshop (and, knowing my luck, going to jail). Surely there’s another program that’s cheaper which is capable of many of the same tasks, right? How about FREE? If you are unfamiliar with the free-to-download (on PC, Linux, and now Mac!) GIMP program, today may be your lucky day! In a nutshell, it’s Photoshop…but free. I downloaded it a few weeks ago and have been messing around in it a bit to try and understand all the tools, how layers work, and other possibilities it can provide for me. As it turns out, panorama stitching is one of those possibilities. With this free plugin and a quick installation into the scripts folder, you can be well on your way to easily stitching images together.
After looking at an informative tutorial on the program, I headed out last night to give it a try. I wanted mainly to have some fun with my first “real” panorama, so I choose to do 5 self-portraits of me posing in various thinking positions. The poses themselves were pretty symbolic in the fact it took me an hour and a half of editing to get a decent result. I could work on this a bit more to get everything aligned and erase some ghost images (and halos), but really, I wasn’t going for critical quality here. Due to the MEGApixels of the NEX-7, the final image ended up as a 12,000×6000 pixel (or, 72 megapixels, yikes) behemoth of a file. To keep my website from crashing, I downsized it to a more reasonable 6 megapixels. 🙂
Call me a photoshopper now (er…a GIMPer) if you want, but this is really going to be a lot of fun. I can’t wait to try again with a landscape. Who knows, maybe I’ll get into “real” bracketed HDR soon as well!
That’s all for this post guys and gals, thanks for dropping by. As always, have a great day!