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Photographing Panoramas for Large Prints

Lesson 9 of 30

Handheld Technique for beginners

Mike Hagen

Photographing Panoramas for Large Prints

Mike Hagen

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Lesson Info

9. Handheld Technique for beginners
Do you really need to spend hundreds on a fancy tripod set-up? What about when that visual spectacle isn't tripod-friendly? Tripods are helpful, but not always a must. Here, Hagen shoots on site with a tripod-free technique for panoramas.

Lesson Info

Handheld Technique for beginners

Let's say that you don't have all of this fancy gear. You know we've already received questions today from people saying I don't have a $2000 tripod setup. What can I do? So I'm gonna take you through three sequences here, take you through one that's kinda a beginner photo technique and that's even a misnomer. It's like a no-gear technique. Like I'm a professional and a lot of times I do my panoramas with no gear, just handholding. So I'm gonna show that. Then I'm gonna show an intermediate setup, and then I'm gonna show the full on professional gear setup. So let's watch that video. So what if you don't have all the tripod gear and you still wanna create great panoramas with your DSLR equipment. Well handholding is actually a fairly reliable way to get great panoramas. But there's a couple of techniques I want you to use when you handhold. The first thing is, is when your handholding obviously your hands aren't perfect. In other words there's a little bit of up, and there's a little b...

it of down. So you need to compose each individual frame a little bit looser than you would on a tripod. 'Cause you don't have as much control over it when you're handholding. The next thing is when you rotate, I want you to rotate around the lens rather than rotate like in front of your body like this. And the reason why is you don't wanna create this thing called parallax. In a scene like this where the city is so far away, parallax isn't that big of an issue. But as we'll talk later, I'm gonna do some stuff in a tight spot, and that's where rotating around the lens, the no parallax point is really important. So when I shoot this picture now, I'll probably get about the same results if I go like this versus if I go like this. But you see the difference? The difference is one I'm rotating around the lens. So what I like to think of in my mind is I like to think of a pole kinda running down from my lens to my front toe. And I kinda pivot around my front toe as I take those images. So I'm gonna take this photo here of the Seattle city skyline with no other equipment other than my camera and my lens. I'm using my long lens here. I've got my Nikon 70 to 200 F28, and I'm gonna shoot this around F8 aperture. I'm at ISO 100 and I'm at sunny white balance. And then I'm just gonna check my exposure so I don't blow out those clouds. All right, here we go. So I'll take one shot here of the city and I'm gonna look at the back on my highlight screen and I've got no blinkies or no highlights. That's awesome, and so that was basically F at a 500th of a second. And so I'll lock that in with my AE lock. I mentioned earlier I like to shoot vertically oriented panoramas, so I'm gonna do that. And I focus, start on the left side, and here we go. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, and on the right side I've got the Space Needle, and that's kinda the end of my composition. But as always, I'm gonna shoot a little bit farther just in case. Well here's the result. This is what that handheld panorama looks like when I'm merging it in software. So this is the lightroom interface. We'll see that in about an hour from now but you can see that as I handheld, I didn't keep the camera perfectly steady or perfectly oriented from shot to shot. So we see a little bit of white area in between. And that's okay. Lightroom allows us some tools, gives us some tools to fix that, like this boundary warp tool. Or even we could just crop it. We can crop that bad stuff out. So that actually turned out fairly well for a handheld panorama. And this is the final result here. This is an image. And we made a print of this image. I'll show it later today. It's great, I mean really conceptually since the shutter speeds were high, there wasn't a lot of camera shake or anything like that, so I didn't have to even worry that much about handholding in terms of my technique. I do wanna make one more point here and that is I try to rotate around my front foot, and I think of that as my rotation point rather than doing this. If your scene is a long ways away, like here, you know the scene is literally a mile away so there's no parallax issues. In other words, buildings aren't gonna really move with respect to each other from picture to picture. So if the scene is a long ways away don't worry so much about this parallax thing. But maybe you're in a museum or maybe you're in some tight situation. In those situations, anytime you have something close to the camera and something far away, then you have to really think about rotating around the lens. So to do that, I just hold the camera like this and I just rotate around my foot to try and keep the no parallax point over the rotation.

Class Description


  • Shoot a variety of 360 degree panoramas (skylines, landscapes, vertical and horizontal) with the final print in mind
  • Stitch your images together to create a panorama with Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom
  • Print large images to sell or display in your home


From the skylines of New York and Los Angeles to Switzerland's mountainous backdrop, some scenes are just too spectacular to fit inside a 3:2 frame. Being surrounded by and immersed in a beautiful vista is part of the joy of being a photographer -- but how do you capture what it feels like to stand there in person inside a single image? Panoramas capture that feeling of wonder and squeeze it into the limited form of a two-dimensional print.

Take the experience of seeing a magnificent vista or panoramic view home with you. Join Mike Hagen, director of the Nikonians Academy, and learn his techniques for mastering the art of the panorama, without a dedicated panoramic camera. In this class, he will teach you:

Learn everything you need to make a breathtaking panorama from capturing that spectacular view to hanging the panorama above your couch. Shoot dynamic panoramas in the field that fit together easily when stitched in post-processing. Stitch them together with an eye for printing. Get your color toning right to minimize your reprints, and learn how printing can help you notice things that you may miss when the image is in digital format.


Adventure, travel and landscape photographers looking to improve their final product, make it print-worthy and potentially sell their work.

Adobe Lightroom Classic CC 2016, Adobe Photoshop CC 2015.5


Join photographer, author, and educator Mike Hagen on the journey to perfect the panorama. Hagen has taught hundreds of workshops spanning topics from landscapes to using flash, all while running Visual Adventures and working with the Nikonians Academy. The USA-based photographer has led destination workshops from America-based destinations to bucket-list international locations like Iceland, the Galapagos, and Italy. Hagen is known for his humorous teaching style while presenting complex topics in an easy-to-grasp lesson.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Panorama Checklist & Gearlist

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes


Fred Morton

Get it, get it and get it. I bought Mike's Speedlight course and this is on the list after watching it on line. The course design by Mike with the Creative Live staff is a successful blend of content and presentation. I absolutely loved how Mike took us on location for several shoots, where we could see the setup and problems that he had to resolve. This is a must have course for photographers interested in landscape work. Another powerful part of this class is Mike's willingness to demonstrate and show us what didn't work. The practical experience in his course was just like being in the field with Mike.

user a5f3c6

Mike combines two characteristics of a great teacher: he's obviously knowledgable and competent about his subject matter and he's relaxed and confident in how he presents his ideas. This class covers everything I need to know about photographing and printing panoramas. But, it is much more. It is a class that shows the essential skills involved in shooting, post-processing, and printing photographs and how to apply them to a specific application: panoramas. I learned a lot! Thanks, Mike.

Sue Sirius

This workshop was terrific! I learned so much about taking, processing and printing panoramas (and photos in general). I found the presentation very easy to follow with great examples and instructions. Highly recommend this!