Remember when Apple introduced panoramic photos to its devices many iPhones ago? It seems like only yesterday we’d see crowds of people standing atop a particularly impressive vista slowly twisting left to right and back again as they tried to perfect those wide shots. Funny how we don’t see that so much anymore, isn’t it?
Its inclusion did popularize panoramas to the masses, however, and now it’s a basic addition to any photography app. Even certain digital cameras, as a result, include the same function now. But these modes never appear quite as impressive as the results you might see online, for a number of reasons. Sometimes they’ll be incredibly thin as the software cuts off the tops and bottoms to ensure a smooth edge where you couldn’t hold it still. Or they’re just too bright, the continued exposure making it hard to capture an image correctly.
There is a better way, though, and thankfully photo editing software can help with that. Introducing photo stitching…
What Is Photo Stitching?
This is actually the same process as any professional panoramic shots that you might see. There isn’t some fancy lens (though understanding these will help) that does the work for you, but instead it’s achieved through a technique of splicing a string of photos together to make an extra long continuous image.
It’s said that a panoramic image is at least twice as long as it is high, but there’s no real restriction on how long you want your panoramas to be. There can be issues in creating these sorts of images, however; all the individual images need to line up for one, while the natural curvature of the earth means that there can be weird distortion sometimes.
If you’re really serious about creating panoramic photos then it’s a good idea to get a tripod (they can even be bought for smartphones, too) to ensure each of your photos line up properly when spliced together.
Creating a Panoramic
Since the rule of a panoramic image is that it has to be longer than it is taller, then simply cropping a wide-angle image to remove some off the top or the bottom is the easiest way of doing this. It’s cheating a little, but if the effect doesn’t ruin the photo itself then why not utilize this method? Practically any software can crop images, so there’s no real need to explain that.
However if you intend to stitch images together then it’s important to remember this when capturing those photos, since you’ll need to have images that will be sufficient for the task. Two is an absolutely minimum, but it’s far better to have around three to five images. However the more images you take, the easier the editing software will handle the task.
Whether you have a tripod or not, capture a number of landscape (horizontal) pictures of a scene, beginning from the start point of the panorama to the end. Don’t be afraid to capture photos that overlap with one another, in fact if there’s matching content in each of the images then the software will have a better job of editing them all together into a panorama.
The Stitching Process Explained
To create a panorama you’re going to need some software capable of doing so, and in truth it’s something of a more complex tool so not all programs will come equipped with it. Online-based editing software Fotor, for example, includes photo stitching as part of its Collage category, but there is no more editing involved with its process than putting images side by side – meaning that unless your photos are perfectly aligned with one another (which is a practical impossibility), this cannot create a believable or attractive panorama.
Instead it’s usually the more professional editing suites, such as Photoshop or Xara Photo & Graphic Designer, that enable this function. In fact, the latter has quite a powerful yet simple-to-use package that doesn’t even require the images to be perfectly aligned, which means you won’t need a tripod and can even haplessly capture some images with your smartphone and still create an interesting panorama. And honestly, it’s a really very simple process with Xara…
- Create a new blank photo tab and import between two and eight images that you’d like to use for a panorama, remembering to allow for some amount of content crossover with each image to help the process along.
- Drag and select the images or individually select the ones you’d like to stitch together by holding shift.
- From the toolbar select Photo Edit > Create Panorama.
- The process will automatically begin, a dialog box highlighting the process. Once done the stitched panorama will appear in the window.
- Delete the photos used for the stitching, then export the image from the File menu.
Best Photo Editing Software of 2023