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Panorama Tutorial: Types of Panoramas

Partial Panoramas

I just mentioned this first type in the introduction. This is when you take photos of a portion of the landscape that is around you and assemble them together to get a very wide-angle panoramic picture, or partial panorama.

Here is an example below:

Partial Panorama
Example of a partial panorama of one of the Twin Lakes in Bali.

The 9 pictures were stitched together to form the panoramic image. I deliberately left the irregular border of the resulting image, this is what you will get when you take a few handheld photos, without any tripod. The images will more or less be aligned but not perfectly. That’s no big deal, just crop the image as needed for a clean final result.

It is perfectly possible to follow this principle with several rows of images, to get a high-resolution mosaic image.

Cylindrical Panoramas

After creating these wide-angle panoramic photos for a while, I realized that I could actually follow the same principle but take these pictures all around me, to create a 360° panorama. This is called a cylindrical panorama. Imagine that the image takes the shape of a cylinder, and you, the viewer, are in the center of that cylinder. With that type of panoramas, it is much more interesting to convert the picture into an interactive format – with the ability to move inside the picture (more about that later).

Take a look at this example:

Cylindrical Panorama
Example of a 360° cylindrical panorama over the city of Ljubljana, Slovenia.

This panorama covers the whole 360 degrees. That means that when you convert it to an interactive format, the left end and the right end will be joined together seamlessly. Once again, it would just need some cropping at the top and bottom. Of course, you don’t want to do any kind of editing touching the left and right borders as they wouldn’t match anymore!

As this kind of panorama is made of a single row of pictures, the pictures should be taken vertically and not horizontally, for a maximal vertical field of view. Bear in mind that for any kind of panorama, it is more suitable to always take your pictures vertically.

Spherical Panoramas

We get to the most exciting type of panorama, which is the logical improvement to cylindrical panoramas. With a cylindrical panorama, you can look all around you which is great. What is even more great is being able to look in really any direction, all around but also up and down. You can look at the ground or the sky. It is a complete immersion in the picture. That’s what a spherical panorama is. The panoramic image covers the whole 360° horizontally and the whole 180° vertically. This image has the shape of a sphere around the viewer.

Again, an example:

Spherical Panorama
Example of a spherical panorama of the Raffles Hotel in Singapore.

The above panorama is made of 91 images – which is quite a lot. The photos were shot with my Canon EOS 550D and the lens that comes with it, at 18 mm. This is not the easiest scenario, the more pictures you have, the more likely there will be stitching difficulties. But I would say that if you take the pictures properly, it is still okay. Various panoramas on this site were created with this basic lens and they are still perfectly satisfactory. It’s just a bigger work for the software and for you if you have to arrange some parts that were not aligned correctly.

As the photo covers the whole sphere, there is no cropping involved.

Now that you know about the types of panoramas, you are ready to take the first steps to create yours! Click on the link below to continue. 

→ Next: How To Take Photos For A Panorama With No Special Equipment

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