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Getting Pro Results from a Compact Camera

Shooting super-wide-angle panoramas


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Getting Pro Results from a Compact Camera

with Derrick Story

Video: Shooting super-wide-angle panoramas

So I want to talk a little bit about taking this nice little compact lens that we have in our camera and turn it into a super wide angle. Now I'll tell you why I think this is important. Have you ever had the experience where you're somewhere like this? You are in this big beautiful expansive area. You are loving it. You take a shot of it, you go home and you show your friends. They look at the shot and go, "Eh." Well, the problem was that you're showing them just a little slice of this big beautiful scene.

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Getting Pro Results from a Compact Camera
1h 1m Intermediate Jan 27, 2010

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Compact, point-and-shoot cameras are convenient, travel-ready, and inexpensive. They're also more capable—and complex—than ever. In Getting Pro Results from a Compact Camera, photographer Derrick Story shows how to use a compact camera to take photos that rival those of far more expensive cameras. Derrick shows how to get the most out the camera's lens as you shoot wide-angle, telephoto, and even macro shots. Derrick also discusses the camera's exposure system and clarifies the differences among ISO settings and scene modes. He also shows how to get the best pictures in a variety of lighting conditions, including making judicious use of the flash to supplement existing light.

Topics include:
  • Understanding ISO
  • Stitching a panorama
  • Using exposure lock
  • Using the flash indoors and out
  • Adapting professional techniques to small cameras
Subjects:
Photography Cameras + Gear
Author:
Derrick Story

Shooting super-wide-angle panoramas

So I want to talk a little bit about taking this nice little compact lens that we have in our camera and turn it into a super wide angle. Now I'll tell you why I think this is important. Have you ever had the experience where you're somewhere like this? You are in this big beautiful expansive area. You are loving it. You take a shot of it, you go home and you show your friends. They look at the shot and go, "Eh." Well, the problem was that you're showing them just a little slice of this big beautiful scene.

What if you can capture it all? Well, we have our hard time, because our lens is usually aren't wide enough, but there is this technique called panorama mode that allows you to do that very thing. Basically, what you do is you take a number of shots and then stitch them together on the computer and that makes one big picture and it looks fabulous. Now there are a couple of ways to capture this scene. There is one way holding it by hand. And the way that I like to do that is I start out by taking the picture of my hand and then that way I know that's the beginning of the panorama.

Now you can use a panorama scene mode. Most cameras have that and they'll help you to line the shots up. So basically you go to Panorama scene mode, take a shot of your hand, line up the first shot, take the picture and then you just rotate around and line up the next shot and the next shot. Now the way that I like to do this is called using the human tripod mode where I get everything nice and stable. I get the horizon straight and then I just rotate like this all the way through.

A lot of times you'll take three, four, five, six shots and then we'll stitch them together on the computer. You'll see how that works when we're back in the studio. Now you notice that I have a tripod here with me also. When you use a tripod, you have even better results, because the tripod keeps everything nice and straight. So I'm going to mount the camera on the tripod and I'll show you how I'm going to do this. [ So the first thing I want to do is make sure my camera is straight on the tripod. So I'll make sure that the horizon line is nice and straight and you get that adjusted the way that you want.

Once you do that, what I like to do is just go ahead and pan through the scene making sure that everything stays straight. Once you're pretty satisfied that you have your tripod set up correctly, then go ahead and line up the first shot. I'm going to do that right now. Here is how I do it, if we were shooting this scene. I'd line up the first shot, take the picture, and then now this is really easy. You just rotate the tripod. Make sure you have overlaps. So if you're using Panorama scene mode, that overlap guide will help you.

If you're not, make sure you have a 30% overlap as you go through it and take all of your shots. Now one thing about exposure. It's usually better to have the sun behind you at least when you first start doing this, because the exposure is going to be more even in the sky. Now a tip that I have for you. If you want to make sure that you have good exposures through the scene is go ahead and go into the Manual Exposure Mode. On the camera, I can set that here on the top.

Take a manual exposure reading right in the middle of the scene, lock it down and then go through your sequence just like this. That way your exposure will be set and the light meter won't adjust as you go through the different parts of the scene. So either way, whatever is most comfortable for you, I'm going to show you how these all look on the computer screen when we get back to the studio. The main thing to remember is though that by doing Panorama modes, you can widen your lens much broader than you ever could just go into the wide setting here and you can better capture the scene that you felt when you were there in the first place.

It's really a terrific technique.

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