Panorama Stitching Tutorial

Microsoft ICE window

[ La version française de ce tutoriel est disponible ici ]

This tutorial will teach you the basics of creating a panoramic scene by stitching photos.
Image stitching or photo stitching is the process of combining multiple photographic images with overlapping fields of view to produce a segmented panorama or high-resolution image.

You will first need to shoot a series of overlapping photos covering your landscape scene, and later stitch them with dedicated software to create a panoramic scene.
This will get you better results than cropping a single photo. A stitched image will have a higher resolution and will cover a wider angle of the scene.

Using Aperture Priority mode on your camera, select an aperture between f/8 and f/13 for a good depth of field. It will be easier with a tripod if there is not much available light (without tripod, you may increase your ISO setting or choose a wider aperture if the exposure time is too long at f/8).
Now set focus on the main subject and then disable autofocus in order to keep the same focus for the whole series of photos.
Make sure to correctly expose the brightest part of your scene, switch your camera to Manual mode and keep these settings (ISO, speed, aperture), so that they will stay the same on all photos to stitch.
None of these settings should vary due to an automatic decision of your camera. This is why you should also disable Auto White Balance and set your white balance manually.

You are now ready to shoot the photos that will later be stitched into a panorama.

Avoid using a foreground if you don’t have a tripod with a panoramic tripod head, or the stitching software will be unable to correctly stitch your photos (creating artifacts due to parallax errors).
[ Note: this tutorial is just an introduction to panoramas, and will not cover this advanced topic. If you really get into panoramic photography, you will quickly need this kind of gear and the knowledge to properly set it up. ]

Make sure to keep 20 to 30% overlap between two successive photos while you progressively shoot the whole scene.
For best results, shoot in Portrait (vertical) mode, so that the panoramic scene resulting from the stitched photos will not look too flat.
For even better results, you may shoot two rows of photos, or more (make sure to also keep 20 to 30% overlap between the rows). In this case, a tripod is essential.

It is now time to stich your photos together, using Microsoft Research ICE (Image Composite Editor), a free (yes!) Microsoft software.

It is provided free of charge and without official support, but is is extremely easy to use.

Try it, and you will adopt it!

Download:
http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/redmond/groups/ivm/ICE/

[ If your computer is running MacOS or Linux, Microsoft ICE will not run.
I would then suggest the free Hugin software to stitch your photos. Note that it is available for Windows as well. ]

After installing the software, run Microsoft ICE, drag the photos to stitch from the Windows Explorer window listing your files, and drop them into the wide grey area of the Microsoft ICE window.

The software will automatically stitch your photos and display the resulting panoramic image. All you have to do now is to crop it (click on ‘Automatic Crop’) and to save it into a new file (click on ‘Export to disk…’).

You are done!

If this tutorial was helpful, or if you have a question, just leave a comment!