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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Panoramas Made Easy with Hugin

Sunset on Cayuga Lake
© 2009 Simon Hucko. See the details here

Want to make some awesome panoramas without spending any money? Then you need hugin. Hugin is an open source photo stitching software that packs a lot of punch. Not only will it align images, it will correct for exposure and white balance differences between images and blend them together seamlessly. You can also use Hugin to correct perspective, align HDRs, and lots of other things I haven't explored or don't understand.

Panorama tips:
- A tripod is helpful, but not necessary. The panorama above was done handheld. Just try to rotate around the camera axis instead of turning your body. Also, avoid any details in the close foreground, as these can get pretty distorted and choppy.
- Make sure you overlap each image by about 1/3 on each side. The more overlap, the easier it will be to align images and preserve details. I ran into problems with my panorama because I didn't have enough overlap, and had to spend a lot of time fixing the alignment manually.
- For the most detail, shoot horizontal panoramas in a vertical (portrait) orientation, and vice versa.
- Shoot in full manual. Lock your exposure, white balance and focus before you shoot your series. This will make editing and stitching much easier and faster. Hugin can compensate for these differences, but it has to work harder and might not produce as good results.
- If you're shooting a lot in the same area, find a way to indicate to yourself that you're starting a pano. Shoot your hand (or some other marker) before and after your series of photos so that you don't have to spend time figuring it out on your computer. It may seem obvious at the time, but when you get back and find 400 pictures of the sunset and have to resort to exif data to figure out where to start and end your pano, you'll be kicking yourself.

That's all I got. As always, questions, comments, critiques, concerns, stories, observations, and whatever else are appreciated and encouraged.


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