No one needs to learn to "think outside the box" more than photographers. The frame, literally a box, is often our greatest ally. Learning to see photographically is, in part, learning to see within the limits of this box and use them creatively. But there are times when this limits our vision unnecessarily. Once we’ve learned to see within the box, we then also need to learn to see outside the box—and start extending the frame with multiple exposures to perfect select compositions. Extending format techniques aren’t just for panoramic image formats. They can be used to give you the extra inch that can make all the difference in the world for your compositions.
Handheld Exposure Techniques
While the best way to make exposures for panoramic merges is to use a dedicated panoramic head on a tripod, this may not be practical—or necessary. (There are three significant benefits to using panoramic tripod heads: one, they keep the camera level and without rotation throughout an exposure sequence; two, they calculate the number of and overlap between exposures; and three, they pivot the camera around a lens’ nodal point, minimizing parallax.) Today’s software packages work miracles, making what was once impossible possible. Several practices can help you make better handheld exposures for panoramic merges.
Keep the horizon level in all the exposures. Varying rotation can cause improper alignment and/or excessive cropping and/or retouching.
Shoot a little loose. Perspective correction in these types of photo merges often results in irregular borders that beg cropping—or retouching, if this is appropriate. The extra wiggle room you gain from shooting loose will allow you to crop the final results more precisely.
Don’t shoot the separate exposures edge to edge. Instead, overlap your exposures by a third for medium lenses, a half for wide-angle lenses and two-thirds for fisheye lenses.