In this topic I will explain how I have created my panoramas which I posted on the Gallery just like this one:
This topic will not be about any specific technique but about tips and tricks that you can use to get the best results.
Creating a Panorama with a mobile App versus on the computer
There are many ways to create panoramas with your phone. There are lots of apps for it for iPhone, Android or Windows Phone and some with really impressive results. Regardless that I learned that I get the best possible results by taking my photos and stitching them later on my computer with great and free software.
First, let me show you the Pros and Cons on using mobile apps and PC Software so you can understand better my preferences.Pros on using Mobile Apps:
* You get the result immediately. If you are not satisfied, you can repeat the process
* Since you get the final panorama photo, you can also share it right away.
* While using the App, you get a guide on making it (the app chooses the photos to take).Cons on using Mobile Apps:
* Not always you realize on the phone that the stitch was wrongly made.
* You don't get to keep the original photos that composed the panorama.
* You usually get a lower resolution panorama.
* The algorithms used tend to be simpler so the app is lighter and adequate to mobile phone CPU.
* The apps sometimes looses the track of your panorama, making it difficult to make it.Pros on using PC Software:
* You have the original images that allows you to try different ways of stitch.
* You get the highest resolution possible.
* You can edit each photo separated which allows you to fix any problem with it (wrong exposure or color saturation).
* You can use software that has heavier algorithms to stitch the photos (more CPU demanding).
* You can try different software to stitch your panorama (if one doesn't work, you can try alternatives).
* You are not limited to what the mobile app wants you to do (photos to take).
* You are not limited in number of photos that you can take.Cons on using PC Software:
* You only see the result when you have the PC with you.
* If you have some problem with the photos you have taken, you will probably know when you are already far from where you made them.
* It's more time consuming, since you have to use 2 devices (phone/camera and PC).
* You will only be able to share with your friends once you get it done on the PC.
* You don't have a wizard that guides you on taking the photos.
Measuring all the Pros and Cons, I realized that I get my best results using PC Software. So I will now explain how I do my panoramas.
Taking the photos to prepare the Panorama
The basics of creating a panorama is to maintain the phone aligned horizontally and taking photos that have points (landscape marks) that are common on the photos and that will serve to stitch them together to create the panorama.
Other thing is that when the software creates the panorama, it distorts the photos, making round corners, so the panorama as an whole looks like a plain photo. When cropping to make your final panorama, you will have to cut those round corners, making you loose (most of the times) the bottom and upper part of the photos you took. This happens more as more photos you want to stitch (it also depends on the software you use).
So, having this in mind, here are the basics for taking photos in order to create the best panoramas
:* Take your photos in Portrait instead of Landscape
This will allow you to loose less of the upper and bottom part of your photos, making it easier to crop the final panorama without loosing what you intended to have on your panorama. On the other hand, you will have more photos which increases the chances of having problems while stitching. The trick here is to understand which way fits better the situation. I usually do all my photos in Portrait.* Start taking your photos a bit earlier than what you want for your panorama and finish a bit after
You might photograph things that you don't want to see on your panorama but, since corners tend to get rounded and therefor lost in the final crop, it's better to have them in the photograph and cut it later with a crop.* Take your photos by repeating 3-4 times the same landscape marks
To achieve the best panorama with less round corners and the best stitch possible, it's preferable for you to take photos of the same things 3-4 times. This also gives you the possibility to remove 1-3 photos from each part of the panorama when you are stitching the photos together in case the software is misunderstanding the way it should stitch the photos. This also allows you to get a more subtle transition if the exposure on your photos are not equally balanced.* For landscapes with high vertical objects (like skyscrapers) you can take photos on Horizontal and Vertical
With powerful PC software, you can stitch photos that you have taken horizontally but also vertically. If the software finds points that are common on the photos, it will stitch them. It all depends on you to take the right photos as you need to have common marks.* Getting the right settings on the camera
Either you using the default camera app or a 3rd party one, you usually have access to some settings that can help you get a more balanced exposed (in light and colors). Setting a specific white balance can help you getting a more balanced colors across the panorama while setting the same exposure time can help you get a balanced lightning. I also tend to set the same ISO (specially lowest as possible).
Of course that, in the end, a White Balance and Exposure Time set to Auto can be the best settings to get the best results. It will depend on you to understand the scene and make some experiences.
Stitching the photos
As well on mobile apps, there are also Free and Paid software to stitch your photos on the PC. I found pretty satisfying results using two Freewares: Microsoft ICE
(Image Composite Editor) and AutoStitchMicrosoft ICE (Freeware - Download via this link)
Microsoft ICE has the advantage of giving many more options to the user. Not only you have more options on the way that you are stitching the photos, since you can choose the Camera Motion from Rotation and Planar, you also have multiple export options (JPG, Deep Zoom Tileset, Photoshop, etc). You get the ability to choose the scale of your output and the quality of the JPG. You can export to disk and also publish to PhotoSynth website.
Regardless the fact that more options is always better, the fact is that Microsoft ICE misses many times in some details where the stitch is not correctly made. I found that it works better with close foliage but it fails many times on the horizon line. The advantage is that you can fix this yourself by exporting to PhotoShop as it exports with all the layers and you will be able to fine align the photos but this is only for people who are comfortable using PhotoShop or Gimp.
Pros on Microsoft ICE:
* More options on the way that it stitches the photos
* Much more options on the export
* Ability to export the aligned layers to PhotoShop
* Direct share on PhotoSynth website
* You get auto-crop immediately from the app
* It's faster than Auto-Stitch
Cons on Microsoft ICE:
* Fails sometimes stitching the photos, specially on the horizon line
* More options also means it's a bit more complexAutoStitch (Free - Demo is Full version and there is no Paid Version - Download via this link)
On the opposite of Microsoft ICE, AutoStich has really few options available but I found to have the most accurate results, even if it has some problems with foliage. Basically you can set the scale for your final image and set the JPG quality, which I always set to 100%. All other options have to do with way that it stitches the photos and I wouldn't mess with those values.
Pros on AutoStitch:
* The results are perfect most of the times
* It's simple to use
Cons on AutoStitch:
* There are no other options to export rather than JPG
* The stitch process is slower
* You need to crop on other software
Both PC Software don't require you to do nothing regarding the way the images should be aligned. You just have to upload and it will to everything to you. Regardless the bigger number of the advantages of Microsoft ICE, I find myself using more the AutoStitch due to the better results that it produces. Nevertheless, I have both software installed and I recommend the use of both.
Comparing results and choosing the Final Panorama
I will start to show 2 panoramas made with Nokia Panorama App for Windows Phone and with a Nokia Lumia 920, where you can see that it failed on both tries.
First attempt with Nokia Panorama App for WP
Second attempt with Nokia Panorama App for WP
After this, I made 3 shots with the phone in Landscape and stitch it on the PC. The results are much better but, as you can see, the crop area is just enough to get the full lagoon on the panorama. This shows that making photos in Landscape have limitations when you create the panorama.
Panorama made with AutoStitch - 3 Photos in Landscape Orientation
Now, seeing the panorama made with 3 photos on portrait, the area that you have to decide the crop is much bigger. I choose this example for a purpose. As you see, the difference between the light (sunny on some areas and cloudy on others) creates a not balanced exposed panorama, regardless the fact that you can stitch the photos.
Panorama made with AutoStitch - 3 Photos in Portrait Orientation
I made a totally of 8 portrait shots with many common parts as you can see.
The result of stitching all these photos is a much more balanced exposed panorama. Still, due to the fact that I took many photos with the same common points made that the foliage that you see at the bottom was not correctly stitched (not in a pleasant way).
Panorama made with AutoStitch - 4 Photos in Portrait Orientation
My favorite result was with 4 photos, carefully selected from the total of 8. As you can see, the area that you have to crop your final panorama is much bigger than the one made in Landscape mode. Here is where you decide what you want to do. I marked in green the area that I think creates the best final panorama.
Panorama made with AutoStitch
Just to show you now a result using Microsoft ICE where, this time, it failed to stitch correctly the photos even if in a very subtle way, while the foliage on the foreground looks much better than with AutoStitch.
Panorama made with Microsoft ICE
The conclusion here is that making your photos and stitching later on a PC gives you much more options and ways to get the best panorama possible. Also, it's obvious the advantage to take your photos in Portrait versus Landscape as you will have a bigger crop area. As where to stitch, I think the best is try all the software that is available to you to understand which one gives you the best result.
So in the end, here's my Final Panorama
If you want to create High Resolution Panoramas closer to the professional ones, the advise is to use PC Software. While many mobile apps do a great job, there is no comparison on what you can achieve on a PC. The possibilities and chances to get a perfect panorama are also much greater if you have the possibility to create the panorama later by keeping the original photos. Also, you can apply this tutorial to panoramas that you want to make with your digital camera, not only with your mobile phone.
I hope this article helps you to create great panoramas and feel free to share them at our gallery.