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Photographing Panoramas for Large Prints

Lesson 6 of 30

What Contributes to a Great Panorama

Mike Hagen

Photographing Panoramas for Large Prints

Mike Hagen

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Lesson Info

6. What Contributes to a Great Panorama
Can you really capture a great wide view without really knowing what makes a great panorama? Learn what makes a great panoramic image and what mistakes to avoid.

Lesson Info

What Contributes to a Great Panorama

The Artistic Eye What am I looking for. You know in the ideal state, what do I want to include in my panorama and what do I want to not include or what do I want to exclude. So I'm gonna show you after this little segment, I'm gonna show you some photos where I made a mistake. I didn't really do as good a job as I wanted to. So let's watch this video. So let's talk about designing your photograph so it looks artful, so it's pretty. What is a well designed panorama? Well in a situation like this we have this really great scene behind me, and what's going through my mind is, wouldn't it be awesome if we did this panorama where we've got the rusty, the metal and then as I change and switch and as I move my panorama in this way I'm thinkin' oh it might also be cool to have the city on the other end of my panorama. And standing here right now it's actually, you know, it's a neat idea in my mind; but, you gotta think about what it's gonna look like in the final print. So if I start with a re...

ally wide-angle lens on this side and then I end off with a really wide-angle lens as I go over there, I'm gonna have this huge section of blank sky. There's really nothing in that portion of the scene that says, ooh strong composition. So what I'm thinking through when I design my panoramas is filling the panorama frame with content, with good content, with artistic looking stuff. So, rather than shoot this giant panorama of everything I just described, I'm actually gonna be selective. So I'm gonna pick maybe just the rusty industrial scene here or I'm gonna get a more telephoto lens, you know like a 200 millimeter lens or 300 millimeter lens and just pick out the skyline where all the buildings are about the same height and they fill about the same amount of the frame. If you don't have a interesting terrestrial information, then you need to make sure that the sky itself is interesting. So maybe puffy white clouds, or cirrus clouds, but anything with like a blank blue sky or even a blank gray sky is not gonna cut it. So I'm gonna show this example of a bad panorama and just so you can see it on screen what it looks like when we have all this negative space with no interesting visual content. All right so here we go, I'm gonna start on this side. Again, I'm gonna lock my exposure and take a sequence of photos around for the panel. So I'm focusing, lock the focus, I lock my exposure and start taking shots. (camera clicking) All right now I'm to the end of the industrial scene and now I'm starting to include the city. (camera clicking) And there's the city and it's just tiny. I've got a 14 millimeter lens on here and there's almost nothin' to see. And I might as well go a little farther and get the sun star in there and just to see what that looks like, all right, done. So back on the art side of things, I'm always looking for content that fills the frame from left to right and this scene out here is perfect for that. If we look over this side we got a ship and a building, we got ships and buildings, we got a bridge and as we move to the right I see some yachts, I see some teal color on that apartment structure behind me. I'm always looking for vibrant colors. I see the yellow on the crane against the sky, fantastic color contrast there. And as we continue around as I go off to my right, I see lots of boat houses and the green trees. And again it's all about the same height. It's a perfect situation to shoot a really long panorama. Something else I think about is whether or not I should keep the camera vertical or keep the camera horizontal when I'm shooting my panorama. I actually like to shoot my camera vertically because I get a higher pixel density. I get more pixels for the actual panorama merge when I'm done. So that's a good tip for you is to shoot the camera vertically. So I'm gonna shoot this panorama. I'm anticipating maybe 20, 25 images total in that panorama and then we'll see what it looks like when we actually piece it together in Photoshop or Lightroom. Alright, so I'm gonna set up the camera and make sure it's all vertical. I'm gonna start on the left and make sure what I see on the left side of the frame is framed well and I'm gonna move off to the right and I'm looking and making sure my sky is in the frame. Okay right now I'm looking at the crane and making sure I didn't chop off the top of the crane, I'm good. Keep going around. And okay, I got the city skyline, might as well include that too, that's great, and the Space Needle, awesome. So, now I gotta set my exposure and to do that I'm gonna pick kinda the brightest area in the scene and use that as my exposure set point, probably off this way with those bright clouds. So I'll set it up over there, take a shot, look at my highlights and you can see I've blown out some highlights there, so I'm gonna dial my exposure down a bit. I'm gonna take off 2/3 of a stop of exposure, minus . and shoot again. (camera click) All right, good, lock that exposure with my AE lock button and now we'll take the actual panorama. So starting back this side. All right, cool. Picture one, two and then since I have a long lens, I don't have to overlap as much. You know I could overlap like 25% from shot to shot. Because there won't be a lot of distortion. The software doesn't have to work very hard with these long lenses. (camera clicking) Typically I find a spot in the frame that I use as a visual reference point like a building and then just put that building from the right side of the frame to the left side as I'm doing my overlap. (camera clicking) All right, I've already lost count at how many shots I've taken. Oh this is gonna be a gorgeous panorama. And last one, actually I'll do one more, good. Before I end this segment I want to say, one of the things I always try to do when I'm creating my panoramas is actually shoot beyond the end of the photo. And what that does is it gives your software more room to play with on the other side. Sometimes you have to bend and warp the pixels so having an extra shot on the end gives you lots of flexibility in Photoshop. So always think of that, one more shot beyond when you think you're done. Right on, so here's the results of that photo shoot. You know the first couple of images I have here, I purposely tried to make a mistake and then the third one I'm gonna show you was you know I was building up, you heard me say in the video, oh this is gonna be such a great panorama. Well I have a confession to make. I made a major mistake and I'll show it to you. So, panoramas aren't easy. You saw all of the setup it required. I had to think about you know the starting point and the exposure here and the exposure there. I also have to think about what's filling the frame. So here's the example where I was standing really close to Gas Works Park. You know I was like, how far was I from that fence, maybe 20 feet from that fence with a super wide-angle lens. So all of this is fine. It's a little warped but that's cool. And then we go over here and all this negative space. And unless you're like from Seattle and you know what exactly that skyline looks like, you have no idea where this is. There's no context, there's no sense of place or location. And I really wasted a bunch of pixels up here in the sky. So I would call this a poor composition. You know the sun here helps to balance the composition a little bit but not enough to make it powerful. So following my own kind of internal rules, I backed up a bit and I shot again. So this is a little better. You know Gas Works Park is about the same height as the other stuff; but, it's still not great. You know it's not all tight. It doesn't fill the frame with interesting content. So the exposure looks fine in that. I did a good job on the clouds. The landscape looks good; but, even better it would've been to back up a little bit farther and go in with a little bit longer lens. And fill the frame so that the skyline is a big part of it. Well the last one that I did in that scenario was this. So I was thinking when I took that shot, I'm like, wow, this is gonna be great like 25 frames and if I ever decide to print it out you know it would be like maybe one foot high and it would be like, I don't even know 15 feet long, 16 feet long. It would have been a massive panorama. So got back from our photo shoot and got to my computer and started working on it and I started merging the files and error message. Lightroom said cannot merge images. I thought well maybe it's just because it's a big panorama, not enough RAM who knows. So I went and tried to merge it in Photoshop. Sometimes the Photoshop merging engine is a little bit more sophisticated. Photoshop, same thing, couldn't do it. So I started to then go from photo, to photo, to photo and I realized that at this point here, to that point there, I actually missed a gap. I didn't follow my own rule. I didn't overlap by 25%. I was so excited talking to the camera and fiddling with all this cool technology that I just missed a physical location in the scene. So like, awe, so I merged this together and then I merged the next segment together and then I realized here, right before I got to the city skyline, I did the same thing again. So even the professionals, we make mistakes and so that's why panorama technique is so important that you're just diligent and you're always thinking about take the picture, (plunk) okay now I just consciously think, what is my next photo, how much do I need to overlap, where is this building here and where will it be in my next photograph. So there's my mistake. There's my five foot section and my 10 foot section and my four foot section and my one foot and my one foot section. So be diligent in your panoramas. Don't make the mistakes that I make.

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.


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!