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Photographing Panoramas for Large Prints

Lesson 10 of 30

Tripod Technique for Intermediate Photographers

Mike Hagen

Photographing Panoramas for Large Prints

Mike Hagen

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Lesson Info

10. Tripod Technique for Intermediate Photographers
Got a tripod, but maybe not the fanciest panorama gear? Walk through the process of shooting with mid-level gear for more than mid-level results.

Lesson Info

Tripod Technique for Intermediate Photographers

An intermediate technique, so using a tripod and a ball head. So almost everyone out there in Internet land and here in the studio, almost all of us have a tripod, so let's learn how to use that. Okay, so now let's talk about the next step in tripod gear. Maybe not the full-on professional setup, but a pretty good setup for panorama work. What I've got here is, I have a Really Right Stuff tripod, these are the legs. I've got a really nice head, it's called the Really Right Stuff BH-55. It's their top of the line, very high-quality head. And what I'm looking for in a tripod head is number one, I want good holding stability. This one will hold up to 50 pounds of gear, so that's a big honking camera. But also, I'm looking for a rotation plate in the tripod head. This one's kinda cool because it actually has degree markings on there. And so if you want to be really precise in your pans, you can actually say, "I wanna rotate 10 degrees or 15 degrees consistently." You can just look down her...

e and go from 45 to 60 to 75, shot to shot to shot. So that's a pretty cool thing. The other thing you need in your tripod system is a way to make sure that everything is level. I said earlier that when we do our panoramas, we don't want the camera to be tilting or sloping downward or upward. So having these little spirit levels is very, very helpful. So what I'm gonna do now, I'm gonna level out this tripod head using my video bowl adjustment here. And then I'm also gonna level out the top of my tripod plate mounting area here, so that's level. And then, we'll go and take the shot. So first thing is, make sure I am vertical here. Checking my bubble level. Awesome. And then next is, I'm gonna level out my tripod, the ball head, sorry. Get that. Okay, good. And now I'm just gonna swing from left to right and I'm just gonna make sure that the legs are out of the way so that as I actually move my body from left to right, I'm not kicking my legs and messing up my composition. So that's another thing to think about, is keeping the legs positioned so they're out of the way of the photographer, or you. So I start here on the left. Look at that. And then I pan off to the right. Great. I'm gonna reposition a little bit up, 'cause I'm getting a little bit too much water. Alright, I'm gonna take my first shot. Check my exposure. And earlier, we're at F at a 500th of a second. I'm on my highlight screen, I don't have any blown highlights, which is awesome. So I'm gonna lock that exposure. And we are ready to take the shots. So start here on the left. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. Wanna give you a couple more tips here. You'll notice that I'm moving pretty quick. And what I'm doing is, in between my shots, is I'm just holding really still. But my shutter speeds are pretty fast, so I don't have to worry about camera wobble or camera shake. However, if it's really windy outside or if it's later in the day, like sunset or golden hour, you might wanna actually lock the pan in between your shots and then take your hands totally off the system. That'll give you a really stable shot. So how that would look would be, take your first shot here. Lock it. Loosen it, reorient, lock it, take a picture, loosen it, reorient, lock it, take a picture. So that's the best practice right there. What I did before was a little bit lazy. But since it's so bright, it's gonna come out okay. Yeah, don't be lazy like Mike Hagan. That's bad. So here's the result. It's the result from the tripod-based photos. Pretty good. And the truth is, is they're, because it's again, there's so much light on the scene that tripod-based wasn't really required for that, but it came out really nice. So I wanna talk about a couple things and then I know we have this great question that I'll get to in a second. I talked about being steady. The real reason we use the tripod is so we can be steady, especially when the light levels are low. When I have to be really steady, I use a cable release. This is the best way to take your shots, because your hand is off of the camera system. So I orient my photo, and then I go click. And then I loosen this, I'd rotate a little. Lock it, and then click. So cable releases are really the way to go. The ball head setup I have here. This ball head actually rotates. I mentioned the little degree symbols on there so I can see 75 degrees, and 40 degrees, and 15 degrees. I sometimes use those. If you don't want to go out and buy the top-end ball heads, and panoramas are your thing, then a lot of companies sell this, this here. This is called a panning clamp. And what this allows you to do is mount the camera right here in the panning clamp and just use that clamp to rotate. And the advantage of this is that it's a lot lighter weight as well. So it cuts down a few pounds in your overall tripod system. So this panning clamp is a good little tool. Alright so, Kenna, we have a question. Yeah, the question, Mike, was from Latori Gupta who said, "What's a pretty good tripod for beginners?" Alright. Well, you're not gonna like my answer, because no one likes the answer I give. So I'll answer your question specifically, and then I'll give you my real answer. Your question, I would say, anything, something like an aluminum tripod from Manfrotto or Bogen, those can work really well. There's another company called The 3 Legged Thing that makes pretty good stuff for inexpensive tripods. There's Mefoto, M-E-F-O-T-O, I think is what it is. All of those work fairly well, but here's the thing. And I really learned this the hard way myself is, buy a nice tripod now. There's a famous Internet guy who wrote a story on this a long time ago, and it was, either you buy a nice tripod now, or over the career, you're gonna double the cost of your tripods. So I did this, I bought an inexpensive metal tripod a few years ago, or a long time ago now. And it was like 150 bucks, and it felt like a lot of money to me at the time. But then as I did more and more photography, I realized, I really need better gear. I need better gear. So I bought the next level up. I spent like $400 on a tripod. Then I used that for like a year and I said, "You know what? It's just still not cutting it." So I finally realized that I just need to spend the money on the high-end gear. And since I started buying high-end Gitzos and high-end Really Right Stuff products, I have never looked back and I've been so happy. So, sorry. I know she didn't really wanna hear that. But I'm just saying, spend the $1,000 now on nice tripod equipment, and you'll never have to buy another one.

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!