Stretching It Out :: Panorama Pictures a Frame at a Time

A variety of consumer point-and-shoot digital cameras offer a Panorama Mode for creating panorama pictures that stretch beyond both the standard 4:3 and the 16:9 ratio formats. That because a digital panorama consists of a composite image that is actually made up of 2, 3 or more separate images merged into 1 longer one. These images are all snapped in sequence.

It’s more common that your camera hardware takes care of all the “stitching” while another approach is that software installed on your computer handles the task. (If your camera does all the work it can tie up camera operation for several seconds until the processing is complete.)

When a panorama is created correctly the image really does look like one flawless picture where everything blends together. And, your friends will be amazed. As an added bonus, viewers are drawn right into the picture just as if they were there!

Panoramas offer a terrific way to produce framed or mounted masterpieces worthy of hanging on any wall. And, once you’ve created your first one you’ll see just how easy they are to create making each one a subject of distinct discussion.


Place your camera in Panorama Mode. Locate a scene that is too long to capture in just one image. Determine if you’re going to shoot left to right or right to left. Snap the first shot and monitor the camera display. It will show you your first image and offer a visual guide system that lets you easily align the next shot. After you’ve taken your first image the camera display shows just enough of it to help you visually align the next shot. For this to work correctly you must make sure you can see the display clearly. And, yes, you can handhold the camera easily, particularly in bright light. All images shown here were handheld shots.


Your camera calibrates the exposure based upon the first image capture in the panorama sequence. This is very important to remember! Therefore, if your 3 shots go from bright light to low light and then to bright light you’ll discover that the 2nd shot is too dark as shown in the panorama below.


1. Make sure there’s consistent and fairly even lighting.
2. Unless you use a tripod or some other kind of support you will find yourself handholding the camera through all the exposures.
3. The monitor/display may need to be turned up to its brightest value in order to see how to align your images when shooting in sunlight.
4. Distant scenic shots will work best when aligning your images.


1. Your batteries run out of power and cause the camera to shutdown.
2. You accidentally turn off your camera before the hardware stitching has completed causing data loss.
3. Have plenty of space on your memory card. A panorama can be a bigger file size requiring more storage space.


This shot is a panorama taken outside the Vatican. It’s got problems. Upon close inspection you’ll see that it’s not level. The reason is that the outside light was very bright making it almost impossible to see the camera’s display. In fact, there was a problem seeing how to align the shots together. The camera’s hardware went ahead and tried to blend the images together. But, in reality problems exist preventing the panorama from looking realistic due to alignment and distortion issues. Note how the Vatican is leaning!


Does this one shot tell the whole story? Hardly! Compare this one frame with the panorama below. Which do you prefer?

Panoramas don’t work for everything. But, they are fun to create. Your travel shots will absolutely come alive!

(images © e. sapwater/all rights reserved)