Tips and Tricks

One of my primary jobs at Gigapan is to educate photographers on the art of shooting gigapans. I’ve gathered several tips and tricks over the years and love to share them when training a new user, conducting a workshop, or presenting a webinar. I thought I would share some of these tricks with our blog readers as well.

These tricks are pretty simple while others are a little more technical, but all of them help ensure better final Gigapan images whether you’re new to gigapixel imagery or an old pro.

Set the Correct Field of View (FOV) 
If set incorrectly, there are a few things you will experience. The most common is what I call window panes.Window panes are black vertical bars you get in between the columns that appear in your chosen stitch software, and usually results from having a larger field of view than the lens you are using. This may seem pretty simple, but even experienced Gigapan users make this mistake (including myself!). On a recent trip to New York, I was fortunate enough to have access to an unobstructed rooftop, but forgot to set my FOV correctly. My EPIC Pro was set to a 25 degree FOV (50mm equivalent) but it should have been set to a 13mm FOV (100mm equivalent). Everything looked fine while shooting, but when I went to stitch, nothing lined up and it looked like a Picasso painting. Luckily, I will be able to go back up to the roof when I return in August to get it right.

Here are a few FOV’s for common lens focal lengths to help you make sure you are set up correctly. (Please keep in mind that these numbers are based on the EPIC Pro, a full frame DSLR and may differ from your set up by 0.2-0.4 degrees)

i.  50mm = 25.0 degrees
ii. 70mm = 20.0 degrees
iii. 100mm = 13.0 degrees
iv. 135mm = 8.2 degrees degrees
v.  150mm = 7.4 degrees
vi.  200mm = 6.5 degrees
vii. 300mm = 4.5 degrees

Setting Pre-trigger Delay
Minimize as much movement as possible when shooting long exposures. Pre-trigger delay gives the EPIC Pro additional time to settle between movements to each location. The default is set to 0.5 seconds, but I like to set mine to about 1.5 seconds when I do long exposures. This will give the EPIC Pro more time to get a clear image at each location. This will vary depending on the strength of any wind you experience, as well as the weight of your camera and lens combination.

Enable Mirror Lockup
Mirror Lockup is another way to make sure you eliminate excessive shake. To do this, enable Mirror Lockup on your camera. Then, on the EPIC Pro, go to Options > Mirror Lockup and turn it on. There is another option for this with Canon cameras in Liveview. If you put the camera in Liveview mode and enable Mirror Lockup, it will flip the mirror up at the beginning of the pano and leave it up the entire time. If you decide to go this path, you do not need to turn on Mirror Lockup on the Pro.

Use External Applications
I prefer to switch to manual shutter mode and use an accelerometer app when shooting. Accelerometers are a great way to see the vibration and movement of your EPIC Pro. There are several free accelerometer apps for the Android and iOS phones. I personally have used two for my android: AcMeter and Accelerometer Meter. I find myself using AcMeter more frequently because it offers Point, Graph and Speed options. iOS offers AccelMeter, 3D Accelerometer, XYZ Tools and Sensor Kinetics. I tested all of them and found Sensor Kinetics to be very robust and useful. Once you download the app to your phone, launch the app and place the phone on the Pro. When the Accelerometer shows a flat line or stability, trigger the shutter with your remote trigger cable. Once the image is taken, press OK on the Pro to move to the next position.

Image Review
Most of you are familiar with image review. You take a photo and it displays on the back LCD for usually 2-6 seconds. It’s a great tool when shooting single images to see if you captured what you wanted with the right exposure. Unfortunately, it can also ruin your panoramic images. How, you ask? Allow me to explain: The EPIC Pro triggers the camera to fire the shutter. If the camera is busy at that time, for example reviewing a previous image, then the shutter will not fire, causing you to miss the current image locations in the pano. If you are not paying attention this won’t be known until you go to stitch. Often times at that point, it’s too late to return and reshoot. The solution is to simply turn off Image Review to avoid this small but important adjustment. 

My hope is that you find these little gems of advice to keep in your pocket and lend to greater success when you take panoramic images. If I could leave you one final piece of advice, it would be this. Slow down, breathe, double check your settings on both your camera and the EPIC Pro and enjoy the process. We are photographers because we love to capture the beauty in life. We are masters at freezing time for others to view forever. 

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