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The Guide to Creating Panoramas For Your Business: Stand Out from the Pack!

August 27th 2014 10:05 AM

69039rWidening Your Horizons

If you are a professional photographer, you know how the photography market has morphed over the last few years. We have more competition than ever from our fellow pro shooters. The relative ease of creating digital images has inundated stock photo agencies to the point that our images often get lost in a “sea of similars.”

To add insult to injury, we are now seeing a tidal wave of smart phone images and a perception that images should be free!

Over the last 21 years, the art of creating visually compelling (and highly marketable) panoramic images has brought me the unique appeal I always wanted as a professional photographer. 

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A Profitable and Fun Niche

I found that the panoramic format is fun, as well as challenging, in many ways. I love the cinematic feel of panoramas and enjoy the compositional opportunities the format has to offer. By concentrating my efforts, I have found a unique way to compete in a changing marketplace.

Creating Your Panoramas

First of all, you may want to investigate the technical aspects and gear requirements of the format. One of the most important technical aspects of creating panos is that your lens must rotate around the entrance pupil of the lens. Sometimes, this point is called the “Nodal Point.” This is essential to getting a good stitch. You can read a good explanation about it here.

When shooting images for a pano be sure your camera is set on manual exposure and focus. If these change during your exposure sequence, the resulting panorama will be useless. Also, be sure to use a remote to trigger your exposures as any vibrations can ruin the panorama.

I set my exposure based on the brightest portion of the panorama using “Expose to the Right” technique.

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Use Gear You Already Own 

Add a good a panoramic tripod head, either manual or automated and you are on your way. Here are a few panoramic gear suppliers;

360 Precision

Nodal Ninja 

Really Right Stuff 

Seitz Roundshot 

40464r Dedicated Panoramic Cameras?

With the exception of the Seitz Roundshot Digital cameras, all of the dedicated panoramic cameras use film… not that there’s anything wrong with that! Actually, the Fuji and Linhof panoramic cameras are fantastic. The problem is that we just don’t know how much longer we’ll be able to purchase film and find labs to process it. These cameras served me well for many years. That being said, I have rarely use my film cameras in the last few years. 

Most camera manufacturers have not produced digital panoramic cameras due largely to the lack of appropriate sensors. Development costs and what would be a miniscule scale of production are to blame. The Seitz cameras are the exception, as I mentioned. Their panoramic cameras are famous for their Swiss precision and durable design. I use their VR-Drive tripod head which automates the process of shooting images needed for the subsequent stitching process. The customer service at Seitz is first rate! Ask for Werner Seitz. Mr Seitz has been very helpful to me over the years.

Aspect Ratio?

Panoramics can be any aspect ratio greater than 2-1. However the best selling and most common aspect ratio used is 3-1. Unless there is a compelling compositional reason not to use the 3-1 aspect ratio, that is what I recommend. The 3-1 ratio being exactly double the width of the full frame 35mm standard format. As such, 3-1 works well for advertising and coffee table books where the images are often displayed across two pages. 

Specialized Software 

Though you can stitch panos in Photoshop CC, I use specialty software; 

PTGui 

Autopano Giga 

HDR Expose 3 

PTGui and Autopano Giga are stitching programs which allow a greater degree of stitching control and precision over Photoshop CC. These programs allow you to create panoramas, but also 360 degree virtual reality images. HDR Expose 3 will allow you to create extremely precise and realistic HDR images and HDR panoramic images. Although there are many HDR software programs, HDR Expose 3 now has a unique “Pano Prep Batch Processing” mode. This new mode allows the application of identical tone-mapping to the HDR panels for subsequent stitching. 

[REWIND: BEST HDR SOFTWARE | PHOTOMATIX VS. NIK REVIEW]

What to Shoot

You will need to consider the types of subject matter that are in demand if you are hoping to get your images licensed on the one hand, or sold as “Print On Demand” on the other. My experience is that compelling scenics will sell, however well composed city skyline images can do extremely well. Nicely executed composites are salable if you have a great concept, and if you have excellent compositing skills. 

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I have found that standard views of well known places may well become best sellers. The images must be well composed, clean and taken in attractive light. 

Marketing Your Panoramas

Working with a specialty panoramic stock agency can be very helpful. I am under contract with Panoramic Images (Doug Segal, President).

Other options for marketing your panoramic images are increasing and well worth investigating. Here are a few that come to mind;

Stocksy 

500px Prime 

[RELATED: STOCKSY, A NEW STOCK PHOTOGRAPHY CO-OPERATIVE]

I suggest you also set up a section of your website to show off your panoramas. My website is tightly focused on my panoramic work.

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Mastering the Panoramic Medium

The rules of composition for panoramas are no different from standard formats. I have found that one point perspective to be especially effective with panos. The Golden Mean or Golden Ratio is a powerful tool. For years, I used a Golden Mean grid over the ground glass of my V-Pan 617 MKIII panoramic view camera. 

Learning More

The varied technical aspects of panorama shooting are beyond the scope of this article, but stay tuned as I plan to follow up soon with more information on the subject! 

About the Guest Contributor

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Richard Sisk

Twenty one years ago, I began a voyage to photograph the American landscape with high-resolution panoramic cameras. I used several cameras for this project, including the Fuji G617, the V-Pan 617 Mark III and more recently, high resolution Canon digital cameras and an advanced panoramic device called the Seitz VR-Drive.

There have been many moving moments during this long journey. However, the people I met along the way, have been the greatest source of inspiration throughout my travels.

I wish you the best with your own dreams, photography and adventures of discovery.

Richard Sisk – www.richardsiskproductions.com

If you’re interested in becoming a guest contributor, contact us!

Comments [9]

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  1. norman tesch

    99 percent of my landscape is multi row, long exposure panoramas. i take over 23 photos for my panos. i only use prime lenses. nothing wider than 50mm. i dont shoot panos that are far away but rather really close. i use this way of shooting to take in the whole waterfall. i like to feel like i am standing right there. panos can really be fun and trying. i have been out in the woods, knee deep in snow a mile out 63 photos at 1 min each exposure and you get home and you just dont like it…panos will for sure make you slow down and take in the whole viewing area and make you think about what you are shooting.

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  2. Richard Sisk

    I just read that Hasselblad may introduce a “Digital X-Pan camera at Photokina 2014!
    http://www.franchiseherald.com/articles/6112/20140901/photokina-2014-rumors.htm
    WOW!

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  3. David Lara

    Panoramas are great. Don’t know if I will persue it for client work. But have from time to time done it for personal work and find it pretty fun to see the end results. Definitely will look into the nodal ninja. Will definitely make for better results.

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  4. Joram J

    Awesome stuff, i love pano’s for the same reason.
    Lacking a pano-head, any tips on shooting handheld? (Crowded places)
    I always try to turn my whole body step-by-step.

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    • Richard Sisk

      Try to rotate around the iris of your lens, as opposed to moving the camera at arms length. Use manual exposure and focus as well.

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  5. Ralph Hightower

    The local camera club that I belong to had show-n-tell theme for a meeting of panoramas. I was going to leave it to the “Photoshop” guys/gals and they shot digital while I shot film. But then I found Corel Paint Shop Pro can create panoramas, so I thought “Why not?”

    I shot three frames of Kodak Ektar 100 in my Canon A-1 with a Canon FD 28mm f2.8. I didn’t have any experience shooting panoramas, but shooting in manual made sense to me since the aperture and shutter speed wouldn’t change.
    This photo is the result:
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/ralphhightower/8436105383/in/set-72157633129780373/lightbox/

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  6. Kurk Rouse

    This is some awesome, work panoramas are usually a hit and a miss for me , the easiest part is to take the photos , the hard part is making your panorama interesting, in terms on composition.

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    • Drew Valadez

      Panoramas are so much fun to scout out and shoot but Kurk nailed it on the head with “making your panorama interesting” can be a bit of work.

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