Panorama Pictures

It's Easy -- You Can Create Your Own

When your subject doesn't fit the frame, you can take a few shots and later stitch them together using an image stitching program.

  • If your digital camera has a "panorama mode" and came with a stitching program, that should be easiest. Even if it didn't, you can take pictures without the "panorama mode" and use a third party program (such as Panorama Factory) to create a panorama image.
  • It's better to use a tripod, but you can create a reasonably good panorama from handheld shots. When you do that, don't stretch your arms and swing the camera around you when you take the pictures. Keep the camera at the same position and *you* have to orbit around it :) I usually set my right foot as pivot and try to keep the camera above it.
  • Keep the camera level. Most stitching programs don't handle the tilted images well. Keep the horizon at the center of the image. Don't point the camera upward or downward.
  • Overlap each frame with the previous one by 30%.

QuickTime VR

Apple's QuickTime VR is a file format that enables 360-degree "virtual reality" view. You can look around 360 degrees by dragging the mouse in the QuickTime Player or the browser window.

Scrolling Panorama

I first saw the scrolling panorama images at Night View of Seto that was developed by a person by the name of M. Murakami. I later created a new version based on it. See the examples in the IPNC page. The script can be downloaded from here.


Photosynth is a recent outcome from Microsoft Research and it is amazing. Regular panorama programs stitch the images by seeing how the images overlap. In other words, they only figure out the orientations of the camera at the same position. The Photosynth program also calculates the position of the camera for each shot taken. The result is a virtual reality view where you can look around and move back and forth through the images. Check out the TED video that explains the feature so well.

Here are some of the "synths" that I uploaded.

Links to Amazing Gigapixel Images

Stitching Programs

I recently learned that there is a Wikipedia page "Comparison of photo stitching applications (software)" listing all major panorama tools.

I had been a loyal user of The Panorama Factory since 2001 but I just switched to PTGui (79 euro ~ $109). First of all, it is many times faster than The Panorama Factory. I also found articles saying PTGui is faster than its current competitor Autopano Pro (APP). PTGui's is smart and it can create panorama image or QuickTime VR with relatively simple steps and it also allows users to tweak many parameters if they want.

Smoky City Design's The Panorama Factory ($79.95) is also a very powerful program. The automatic (Wizard) mode usually does a great job but you can also tweak the parameters for some of the steps. To get the money's worth, I recommend reading the User's Guide (PDF) carefully. The UI for some features are somewhat obscure (for instance, double-clicking on the edge of the stitched region to open the parameter dialog). This program had a tendency to crash when saving a large image as QuickTime VR but it became constant with the latest Version 5.3. That was another big reason for me to switch to PTGui.

I hear PhotoMerge in Photoshop does such a good job that you don't need to buy a separate program if you own CS3/CS4.

As for free software, hugin looks fairly interesting.


Lake Tahoe, Squaw Valley Ski Resort
Sometimes people move between the shots and leave ghostlike effects in the panorama image. They can be fixed using image editing software, but I would just leave them there for fun.

Ridge Winery
I told my wife to move around so that she would appear three times in the picture.

The Infinity docked at Canada Place
Gross tonnage: 91,000; Guest capacity: 1,950; Cruising speed: 24 knots; Length: 965 feet! We were in Vancouver just for the weekend and we didn't set foot on this cruise ship to Alaska.

Oracle Building with an American Flag A vertical panorama picture

Oracle Buildings

3DO Buildings at Dusk

3DO Halloween Party In the company cafeteria

Golden Gate Bridge

From Diamond Peak looking down Lake Tahoe

QuickTime VR

Palo Alto Byxbee Park
This is an example of QuickTime VR. The pictures were taken at Byxbee Park near Palo Alto Airport.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort

Squaw Valley Ski Resort

Lake Tahoe Incline Village Vista Point

Fulton Street, Palo Alto - December 2001

Shinjuku, Tokyo - December 2002

Shinjuku, Tokyo - December 2002

Shibuya, Tokyo - December 2002

See more panorama pictures in the IPNC and Cancun pages.

March 29, 2010 - Komei Harada