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Panorama Tutorial: Panorama Editing Guidelines

In this part, I am going to give you some advice and things to pay attention to when creating your panorama. The goal is not to teach you how to play with the settings in your software, the manipulations being different from one piece of software to another. I invite you to refer to the online tutorials of the panorama software you will choose in the last tutorial of this series.

The aim is more to provide some general guidelines of how a panorama should be to ensure a great viewing experience. So what’s important for a successful panorama?

The Horizon

First thing about the horizon: its position.

In the case of a partial panorama, it doesn’t really matter since it is nothing more than a mosaic picture, the horizon can be anywhere.

In the case of a cylindrical panorama, it will depend on what you will do with this panorama. If you will use it as a simple photo, it is exactly like for partial panoramas, it can be anywhere. If you plan to turn it into an interactive format, the horizon absolutely has to be centered vertically! Otherwise, it will appear totally curved, which does not look very natural…

For a spherical panorama, it will automatically be centered vertically (if it’s not, your panorama has a big problem!) since the whole sphere is covered.

Second property of the horizon: its straightness. 

This is a very important point. You always have to make sure your horizon is perfectly straight. It may sound obvious, but you would be surprised by how easy it is to find yourself with a curved or wavy horizon after the stitching. As a result, before rendering the final image, you must go to the panorama editor in your panorama software, and straighten your horizon if needed.

Vertical Lines

This is highly related to the straightness of the horizon, your vertical lines have to be vertical. Some pieces of software like Autopano have a vertical line tool in their panorama editor, making it easy to correct leaning buildings or street lamps.

I can’t stress it enough, your panorama must be level!

But also remember that in a spherical projection, the zenith and the nadir are totally distorted and the vertical lines will never be vertical anyway. You want to adjust this in the central area of your panorama only.

Panorama Curved Horizon
Example: In Autopano Giga, the preview of a panorama taken in the Souq Wakif in Doha, Qatar. As you noticed, the stitching quality is excellent but the horizon is totally wavy and the vertical lines are far from vertical. The vertical lines tool is being used along the wall corners to straighten the panorama.
Panorama Curved Horizon
The panorama is now perfectly straightened, the walls are perfectly vertical and the horizon is perfectly straight and in the center of the image.

The example above is a little extreme, but it illustrates the wavy horizon issue. Even if your panorama seems straight and the verticals seem vertical, I still advise you to take a closer look to make sure they are. You might be surprised :).

Contrast and Color

If your software did its job correctly, the exposure and colors should be perfectly harmonized. However, pay attention to any underexposure or overexposure issue, that should be settled before rendering the panorama. Check your software help section to see how you can adjust exposure/colors if needed.

After the rendering, when you have your full resolution picture, you can choose to open it in Photoshop or your favorite software, for some more post-production if you see any more things to improve on your image.

As a general rule, interactive panoramas look better with an emphasized contrast and vivid colors. Of course, you don’t want to overdo it and make your image look totally fake, but increasing the contrast and the saturation slightly does provide a better viewing experience. A dull image will be less impressive.

Now that you got the perfect panorama image, it is finally time to get immersed in that image! Click on the link below to continue.

→ Next: Making It Interactive: Panorama Viewers & Multiresolution

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