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Panorama Tutorial: Image Stitching Steps

You have shot the pictures that will constitute your panorama. It’s now time to use stitching software to create the panoramic image. Here is a quick theory about the different steps you will follow when using your panorama software.

There are quite a few pieces of software in panoramic imagery, many are paid – and not so cheap – but without it, I don’t see how you can create a panorama. I consider that if you are really into photography and really willing to make beautiful panoramas, it’s a very good investment. Moreover good panoramas, just like good pictures, can be sold. By licensing one or two panoramas, you more or less make up for the price of the software.

Like I mentioned in the introduction, as a start you can use a free stitching software called Hugin.

I will provide you with some software examples in the next article, but first I will detail the different steps of image stitching with any software.

Importing The Images

Import the images into your software. You often have options to select the lens type and settings that were used when shooting the photos – if not detected automatically. In most software, “normal” wide-angle and fisheye lenses are both supported.

Loading Images
Example: Loading images with PTGui

Stitching The Images

In one or a few clicks, launch the stitching of the images. The software will assemble all the pictures into the panoramic image by creating control points. Control points are automatically generated by the software when it finds pixels that are identical in two or several pictures. It links these pixels by a control point.

When that work is done, you will have a good preview of the final panorama. The software will also inform you about the quality of the stitching.

Possible Alignment/Contrast/Color Editing

The software has aligned the images automatically. However, it happens that it couldn’t find enough control points to align certain pictures properly. The software allows the manual creation of control points. It is often presented with a kind of virtual magnifying glass, enabling you to select the same pixels very precisely on both pictures.

Sometimes, if the control points are of very bad quality, you might even want to delete some of them and replace them by your own. When you are done editing the control points, you will have to optimize the panorama. That’s a recalculation of the stitching with the new control points.

Control Points
Example: In Autopano Giga, showing the control points automatically found between the two images. It is possible to add control points with the help of the square “magnifying glass” (the red + sign is the mouse). This way, you can select a point in the first image, and find the exact same point in the second image.

At this step you might also want to use the “panorama Editor” mode to correct some contrast, light, or color settings.

Panorama Rendering

When you are happy with your preview, your last task is to hit the “render panorama” button to launch the rendering of the real full-resolution panoramic image. This can take a little while depending on how powerful your computer is. If your computer has a limited RAM memory and your panorama is made of many pictures that already have a big size, it is possible that the software will return you an “insufficient RAM memory” error. Try resizing down the images you import into the software if that’s the case.

Panoramic images can easily reach a very large size, and the larger the more your computer will struggle. It is not necessary to have an extremely large image to get an enjoyable full-screen panorama. In any case, if you plan to use software like Photoshop for some retouching, remember that it doesn’t accept any image that is more than 30,000 px wide.

To give you an idea, the panoramas on this site are 9,500 or 10,000 pixels wide. But some people will tell you that it is still too much. Actually, it is considered that the minimum width for a good quality full screen panorama is 6000 px. However, I still recommend you render a larger top-quality image first, which you can resize later if needed. As a personal preference, I avoid creating full-size panoramas that are below 9,000 px wide.

These were the steps you will follow to create your panorama. These steps are often very intuitive in the way panorama software is made. But before using your software, I suggest you read about the different panoramic image projections. Click on the link below to continue.

→ Next: Panoramic Image Projections

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