Taking Great Panoramas On Your IPhone

Since iOS6 the iPhone has the fantastic ability to take some pretty decent panoramic images through the camera’s panorama function (you need one of the newer iPhones for this as it seems that Apple don’t think the quality of the camera on older models is up to the job… However there are apps you can download to take panorama’s on older models). If you don’t currently use this function, you should; it brings a whole new dimension and feel to the images you take –  instead of being restricted to a small rectangle, you can take pictures as you see them and capture the scenery that surrounds you.

The Basics

The panorama mode is only compatible with iPhone 5, 4S or the 5th  gen iPod touch. Here’s how to kick things off;

  1. Start the camera on your device
  2. Ensure you’re using photo mode
  3. Go to the option menu and select “Panorama”
  4. Line up your camera and click on the camera icon
  5. Slowly turn your device from left to right (you can do right to left by tapping on the capture box). Try and make sure the arrow is kept centered on the line running across the screen. You should notice the panorama box moving as you turn your device.
  6. Once your photo is done, your device will tell you.

Making the Most of the Panorama Function

Unlike the panorama function on many other devices/applications, where you need to take 3 subsequent photos, lining each one up with a super-imposed edge of the previous photo, the iPhone allows you to take the panorama as a continuous flow; this not only avoids unevenness and fisheye distortion which you might get from the stitching and compression process on other devices, but also allows you to capture “alternative” views of your landscape (which I’ll explain in more detail later on).

Taking Great panoramas

There are 3 things you need to take a decent panoramic image;

  1. A steady hand or surface to rotate the phone on (although the iPhone stabilises most movement for you)
  2. Good Lighting
  3. A Good Scene to take an image of

Lets go through them;

1 –  A Steady Hand

Try and keep your hands as stable as possible. It’s best to take your time if you want a clear image. Slowly pan your device round and do your upmost to keep the arrow as close to the horizontal line as possible –  if you deviate too much then images will look bent, mis-aligned or jagged. Another option is to use a stand with a rotating mount, this will make sure the image is very smooth. If you don’t have one of those, you can just balance your device on a hard surface and pan it round – it’s pretty much the same.

2 –  Good Lighting

To get a consistent image you’ll want to assess the lighting of your image. If you’re taking a picture of a road lined with buildings for example, if one side of the road is in shadow and the other in bright sunlight, this may look a little weird on a panoramic view (Although on the flip side, you could use it to make quite an effective photo).

Try and capture images on bright days; it will make your subject matter look much more vivid and colorful. Taking images on dull or gloomy day may not look the best, especially if you get them printed for your wall –  Companies such as Print Panoramics specialize in printing iPhone panoramics. Unless you’re specifically looking for a gloomy picture to create atmosphere, a bright and colour rich image will usually look better. Take a look at this image from Marbella in the sunshine as a great example. If you find that the iPhone’s built in panorama function creates an image which is too dark, try the Pano App on itunes.

3 –  A Good Scene

There’s no point running around taking panoramic images willy nilly. You need to have a good scene to take a picture of to make it worthwhile. Pick an interesting subject or a view that blows you away when you see it. If you’re looking for something a little different, panoramas taken in confined spaces (such as a car interior) can be quite interesting, especially as you don’t get a full panoramic view yourself when in such a small space.

Alternative Views

Because the iPhone’s panorama function allows you to pan smoothly, there are things you could try with your phone to capture “alternative” images of a possibly artistic nature. You’ll get natural distortion in confined spaces because apparent distances are skewed more at close range.

Photo by charles arthur

You could also try things such as moving the camera quickly, moving it slowly (I’m talking a duration of several minutes), moving it about (i.e. up and down, forward and back) or even getting your subject matter to move, like in the example below;

Photo by charles arthur

There’s a wealth of different ways to experiment. Have a go yourself and see what you come up with. You might just create a image well worthy of putting on your wall.