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Image Stitching Steps

This article is Part 3 of the ‘How To Make a 360° Panorama?‘ tutorial series. If you missed them, you can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

You have shot your pictures that will constitute your panorama. It’s now time to use a stitching software to create the panoramic image. Here is a quick theory about the different steps you will follow when using your panorama software.

There are quite a few pieces of software in panoramic imagery, many are paid – and not so cheap – but without it I don’t see how you could create a panorama. I consider that if you are really into photography and really willing to make beautiful panoramas, it’s a very good investment. Moreover good panoramas, just like good pictures, can be sold. By licensing one or two panoramas, you more or less make up for the price of the software.

Like I mentioned in the introduction, as a start you can use a free stitching software called Hugin.

I will provide you some software examples in the next article, but first I will detail the different steps of image stitching with any software.

 

  • Importing The Images

Import the images in your software. You often have options to select the lens type and settings that were used when shooting the photos – if not detected automatically. In most software, “normal” wide angle and fisheye lenses are both supported.

Loading Images

Example: Loading images with PTGui

  • Stitching The Images

In one or a few clicks, launch the stitching of the images. The software will assemble all the pictures into the panoramic image by creating control points. Control points are created when the software finds pixels that are similar in two or several pictures. It links these pixels by a control point.

When that work is done, you will have a good preview of the final panorama. The software will also inform you about the quality of the stitching.

 

  • Possible Alignment/Contrast/Color Editing

The software has aligned the images automatically. However, it happens that it couldn’t find enough control points to align certain pictures properly. The software allows manual creation of control points. It is often presented with a kind of virtual magnifying glass, enabling you to select the same pixels very precisely on both pictures.

Sometimes, if the control points are of a very bad quality, you might even want to delete some of them and replace them by your own. When you are done editing the control points, you will have to optimize the panorama. That’s a recalculation of the stitching with the new control points.

 

Control Points

Example: In Autopano Giga, showing the control points automatically found between the two images. It is possible to add control points with the help of the square “magnifying glass” (the red + sign is the mouse). This way, you can select a point in the first image, and find the exact same point in the second image.

At this step you might also want to use the “panorama Editor” mode to correct some contrast, light or color settings.

 

  • Panorama Rendering

When you are happy with your preview, your last task it to hit the “render panorama” button to launch the rendering of the real full resolution panoramic image. This often takes a while and it takes up a lot of RAM resource from your computer. If your panorama is made of many pictures that already have a big size, chances are that the software will return you an “insufficient RAM memory” error. Try resizing down the images you import into the software if that’s the case.

Panoramic images can easily reach a very large size, and the larger the more your computer will struggle. It is not necessary to have an extremely large image to get an enjoyable full screen panorama. Unless you are into creating gigapixel panoramas, let’s say that if your picture is 20,000 pixels wide its already huge. If you plan to use a software like Photoshop for some retouching, remember that it doesn’t accept any image that is more than 30,000 px wide.

For a good quality, I like my images to be 12,000-15,000 px wide. But some people will tell you that it is still way too much. Actually, it is considered that the minimum width for a good quality full screen panorama is 6000 px. However, I still recommend you to render a larger top-quality image first, that you can resize later if needed. As a personal preference, I avoid creating full-size panoramas that are below 10,000 px wide.

These were the steps you will follow to create your panorama. These steps are often very intuitive in the way panorama software is made. But before using your software, I suggest you to read about the different panoramic image projections. Click on the link below to continue.

 

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