Creating and Displaying Panoramic Photographs

Q: How can I put together some of those really wide-angle photographs? And, once I've figured that out, is there a way I can share them online?


A: Panoramic photographs can capture a landscape or wide scene better than a traditional image. Luckily, you don't need to have a special camera to take them. There's a handful of software options that will walk you through the process of constructing a panoramic image by piecing together several individual photographs.

When you've found something that you want to shoot, make sure to snap a bunch of separate pictures and overlap them by at least 25 percent. This will make it much easier for the software to find the areas where these images should overlap.

After you've imported your images onto your computer, open up whichever editing program you traditionally use to see if it has a stitching feature available. If not, Adobe Photoshop and even its simpler sister program, Adobe Photoshop Elements, are great tools that offer a Photomerge feature. The Adobe help site can walk you through the steps with an illustrated guide and video tutorial, though the process is fairly painless and intuitive.

If you don't have either of these programs and are just looking to make one panorama, your best bet might be to use a free program. Hugin is available for both Windows and Mac users and can be downloaded for free online. Though the features are limited, this will help you to accomplish the basics.

Once you've completed the image, you can have it printed out or you can display it online. Instead of shrinking the image down until its the same size as a standard photograph, consider using Rollmantic's Panorama tool, which will allow users to scroll and zoom around your finished product.

Rollmantic's tool is easy to use: Visit the site, input your image's location (you'll have to upload it first to a server somewhere; free services, such as Flickr, will work for this), and then customize. You can choose the color of your player and its size. Hit submit and the tool will spit out a javascript code that you can then paste into a site's HTML to share it with the world. (You can see an example of the finish product on this story about one man's personal robot workshop, in which we used the panorama tool to allow visitors to scroll through a display of the creator's parts.)

Tools mentioned in this entry:

More questions? View the complete Toolkit archive.

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Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

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