How to Take Panoramic Photos for Sweeping Landscape Images

photographer in a sunset scene
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Landscape photography is my favorite genre of photography.

I love the peace and perspective it brings. You also can come away with some beautiful pictures.

If you want to learn more about landscape photography, check out this post –> 10 Tips for Beautiful Landscape Photography.

But the one thing I didn’t talk about in that post is taking panoramic landscape photos. I thought it deserved a deeper dive, so here we are.

I love panoramic shooting, whether with my iPhone or DSLR. Today’s tips are going to be mostly for the DSLR camera, but some can transfer to the pano mode on your phone as well.

So let’t get started with the basics of panoramic photos and how to shoot them properly for amazing shots.

What does shooting a panorama photo mean?

The dictionary definition of panorama is “an unbroken view of the whole region surrounding an observer“. It is fitting then that a panorama photo is an ultra wide photo of a landscape or cityscape that covers a large area.

Can I just take a single photo of the scene with a wide-angle lens?

I love using my wide angle lens in landscape photography. It helps me get more of the scene, including the foreground of the photo.

But a panorama isn’t just one photo with a wide angle lens. It is multiple photos combined digitally to show the vast view without the significant distortion you would have with a wide angle or fish eye lens.

So while you can take a wide angle landscape photo and it could be beautiful, it doesn’t appear the same as a true panoramic shot.

What lens is best for panoramic photos?

A medium length lens is usually the best for panoramic photos. And since most kit lenses are medium range, this is something any photographer can do without much extra gear.

What is medium length? Anywhere between 35mm and 80mm should do the trick.

pano shot in aspen forest
This panorama was taken in an aspen forest near Blanding, UT.

10 Tips for Shooting Panoramas Correctly

1. Use A Tripod (make sure it is level)

Starting with level photos will help so much when you are stitching your pictures together. One of my biggest pet peeves in landscape photography is crooked horizons!

So to keep things steady and level, use a tripod when possible.

2. Watch Out For Movement

Movement can kill a panorama shot. You need a view that is fairly calm and still to make things merge properly.

So if you have something moving or walking through your scene that isn’t necessary, just wait for them to move before you take your shots.

If you want a person or other living or moving object in your photo, make sure they aren’t moving in order to take a clear shot.

3. Switch to Manual Focus

I’m not crazy about manual focus, so most of the time I just stick with automatic. But in this case, it could be an advantage if you have the option.

By switching to manual focus, your focal point will stay consistent through all of the photos. This will help with clarity and cohesiveness after you stitch them together.

4. Use Manual Mode

I am a big advocate of shooting in manual mode, so it shouldn’t surprise you that I suggest it here with panoramas. Shooting in manual mode helps you choose all of your settings for the best photo possible.

If you are wanting to learn how to shoot in manual mode, check out this blog post series —> 10 Steps to Manual Mode Series.

5. Keep Aperture Between f/8 and f/11

When shooting in manual mode, you want your aperture to be in the mid range so that you can capture most of the photo in focus. With large, sweeping landscapes you can achieve this with f/8 – f/11.

6. Don’t Change Your Settings When Shooting Panorama

All of the photos you take for the panorama should be taken with the same settings for a cohesive look when you go to stitch them together in post processing. So if your view gets brighter or darker throughout the shot, try to pick settings that will work for most of the light and then you can edit to fix trouble spots later.

7. Shoot RAW

Shooting in RAW gives you the most information and range available for your picture. You will need this in the post processing part, so I always suggest shooting in RAW if available.

To find out more about shooting in RAW, check out this blog post –> 10 Steps to Manual Mode: RAW vs. Jpeg.

8. Shoot With Your Camera Positioned Vertically

In order to capture the most height and depth of a scene in a panorama, you want to take vertical photos and stitch them into a horizontal panorama (or visa versa).

9. Take Multiple Photos & Overlap Your Shots By At Least 30%

I always start on the left side of the view and move right, shooting vertical photos that overlap by about 30%. I continue to take these photos until I reach the end of the view I am photographing.

Overlapping your photos helps the computer software stitch the pictures together with the most accuracy.

10. Don’t Forget Vertical Panoramas

Panoramas aren’t just for horizontal landscapes or cityscapes. You can also use vertical panoramas to convey height such as a tall building or animal.

As mentioned in #8, if you are making a vertical panorama, you want to stitch together horizontal photos for a super tall picture.

Here are some examples from Pinterest that will give you an idea of what a vertical panorama would be used for:

Merging Your Photos Together

What is panorama stitching?

Panorama stitching is taking multiple photos and combining them with computer software to make one large, all encompassing panoramic photo.

It depends on the size of the landscape on how many photos you take. In the image above, I took 11 photos to get the vast scene of the San Juan Mountains near Telluride CO. But you may be able to get a different scene with only 5 or 6 photos. It’s up to you!

how to take a panorama infographic

Best software for panorama stitching

There are many types of software that can do this stitching for you, but my favorite is Adobe Lightroom. You can edit the original photos, stitch them together and edit the final photo all in Lightroom.

Steps to stitch photos together in Lightroom:

  1. Import photos into Lightroom Library
  2. In the Develop module, edit all of the photos that you are going to stitch together with the same edits for consistency. Use the sync button at the bottom to make sure they are all the same.
  3. At the bottom of Lightroom, select all of the photos that are going to be in the panorama.
  4. Right click and choose Photo Merge –> Panorama
  5. Use the spherical setting if not already chosen and hit the merge button.
  6. Once the panorama has been stitched together, crop it to cut out any gaps in the top or bottom.
  7. Then do the final editing as you would any other photo to finish it off.

Video showing how to stitch photos together:

I love looking at panorama photos and taking them too! They just seem to capture the landscape just like we see with our eyes.

I hope this tutorial helps you take and edit your best panoramas, whether horizontal or vertical. They are really fun to share with friends and print out for your wall.

What do you like to take panorama photos of? Let us know in the comments below. And if you found this post helpful, please share. Thanks!

man taking a picture with a monopod and DSLR camera

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