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Windows 7, Panorama tools

by Larry Schaibley, Audio Production,
Content Editor & Windows Tech.

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   We've all seen panoramas on the web, but how do they make them? Some are really good and on some you can tell where they were stitched and the colors (particularly in the sky) often don't match, having a lighter or darker tone. Having the right software and knowing how to photograph a panorama are of prime importance. Getting started.... 
   Having a tripod that you can level is the first thing you need to have. The pano above was done with a window tripod and it was leveled by eye, some tripods have a built in level and of course this is a great advantage.
Camera Tripod
   More info on tripods can be found   HERE
   Once you have your camera secured on a tripod and level you'll need a couple of pointers to make this process easier. Knowing how to use your camera will come in handy. Once you have the camera set for focus and exposure, it helps if you can lock those settings. Most cameras have an exposure lock. Lock the exposure after you focus on the section in the pano that is the brightest. IE, the shot that will be aimed toward the sun. Once you do, lock the exposure. Using the manual settings on the camera are a good idea, and in fact you can use the manual focus too! This is the way we set up this series of shots (5) for the above pano. This way they will all have the correct exposure. If you don't have the advantage of locking the exposure, don't worry Windows Photo Gallery will do that for you in the software. Try not to move or shake the camera when taking the photos.

Click on the above Pano for a larger version.

   When you look at the larger version you'll notice that Windows 7 even did the lens correction automatically. You'll see areas along the top and bottom that are not straight because of this. It will be necessary to crop this pano to even out the image and make them straight. All Panorama software does this. None that I know of does the correction automatically, or in some cases even correctly!

Camera Tripod

Camera Settings

Photography Layout

   This part is easy if you can pick out places 1/3 of the way in from edge of the photo to get the correct amount of overlap necessary for a good pano. In the diagram below you'll see what we mean.
Panorama Layout
   As you move the camera from left to right you need to pick places for the overlap, as shown above. This does not have to be exactly 30% but should be at least 25% for the overlap. Also, shooting this should be done quickly. This will make it easier for the software to make adjustments for movement in the clouds, or with people or vehicles that may be in your panorama.
   For years we bought our Panorama software and it worked fairly well. It always left us with places in the pano that we had to go into and touch up. Sometimes we couldn't get an acceptable result or it was just too much work to get a finished product.
    Larry Schaibley works a lot with all of Windows features and options being a Windows beta tester. Windows Live Photo Gallery is one of his favorite features. Using the Panorama software is easy and accurate with professional results. In this video Larry shows us just how easy this is.

Panorama Software, Video

   If you have Windows 7 then you have one of the best Panorama Softwares out there. There are also other options available to you -- under the Create tab in Windows Live Photo Gallery click on "More tools" and you can download a more complex Panorama software (Microsoft Image Composite Editor), which works great for stacked panoramas.  Don't let the free part fool you, this is a great Panorama Software!
   If you already have Windows 7 and have the Live Photo Gallery then you can download the 5 (five) images for the above panorama and give it a try yourself. Download them HERE by "right clicking" on each image and then click "save as" to put them into a folder on your computer. Then follow the steps shown in the above video.
   If you've never made a panorama before then here's a great chance to give it a try. If you have made them before then by all means give Windows Panorama software a try, it will surprise and delight you.
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