When choosing other essential equipment for taking a 360˚ panoramic image, you need to take into consideration the environment where you will be shooting. No matter what, you will need a solid tripod and a good leveling head. Authors Richard Harrington and Ron Pepper discuss what to consider when picking out a tripod and leveling head.
- Ron, what do you look for in a tripod? - It depends. Usually, if it's a very serious situation, of course, a good solid tripod, just about any will do. I don't like to worry too much about which tripod I recommend. - Yeah, there are different factors. It's really a matter of personal choice. Behind me I have an enormous tripod here. It's actually three stages, it's carbon fiber, and there are certain advantages to getting the camera six and a half feet off the ground. - That's pretty high.
- Why would you take the camera up high when shooting panoramic photography? - I like to get up above crowds, is a good example. Because it's not that much fun to see the people all huddled around the camera. So from somewhere where there's a crowd, I like to get up at least 10, 12 feet, just to get above the head. - Sometimes getting a bit higher does give you a better angle, and besides that here, we are looking for tripods that are just gonna be portable and solid. So we've got a nice, lightweight one here. This is one from Flashpoint. You've got a Manfrotto here. Why do these types of tripods all really ultimately work? This sort of has a built-in system here as well for leveling.
- Right, this is a, I consider this tripod to be a just perfect happy medium, where it's a good solid tripod. It's not overly heavy, because I do carry it around quite a bit. But the main benefit of this one is in leveling. It has a great built-in leveling system that's very fast. So when I get on to my shoot location, I can level it that easy, sometimes quicker. And it's all built-in, it's a very big advantage. - And depending upon the type of tripod, you may or may not have that feature built-in. So there it's all part of the same system. Down here, I just have a head that has the leveling built-in.
This is particularly one from Really Right Stuff, and it's very easy to turn the lever and just get a stable platform. And you can bend that and put it into place until the bubble level lines up and then lock it back down. This particular one is well-suited for panoramic photography, as you'll see that it has the degree marks built in. And that's something that I like to look for. It's pretty important when I'm choosing a 360 panoramic head that it actually has the degrees on there, because, well, we need that as we start to do our rotation for consistency. - I have one more option here.
This is a EZ Leveler. I got this from Nodal Ninja, and it's a three-point leveling system that's usually quite easy. It can go on a smaller tripod or a bigger tripod, and it also works with large and small tripod heads, like the Nodal Ninja 3 is a good example of that. - So as you turn those levels, what do they do, the three different knots? - Just like a tripod, you have the three legs, so that I can always accomplish a level tripod. - And really what this comes down to, folks, is that sometimes it becomes sort of a pain to have to sit there and tweak your tripod legs.
On something like this big one here, with the twist-type system, I can be sitting there fighting going up and down, trying to get it just quite right. And having that last little point of finesse is going to give you a more level camera. Now why does the camera need to be level in the first place? - It also depends. If you're shooting a single row panorama especially, you're going to stitch together that beautiful mountain range, then it's really important to be level because your images won't have a sort of stair-step look to them. And what will happen is you'll have to crop it and you'll have very little vertical field of view left over, where if you have it level, you'll have your entire vertical field of view across all your images.
And the other main reason to level your camera is simply it makes your work in post-processing much easier to level the horizon. - Now, having a stable platform is pretty essential. You don't have to run out and buy new equipment, but if you're using an ultra-lightweight travel tripod, it may not quite be stable enough. Having something that could take this extra equipment, as we start to add some of this extra add-on gear that's pretty common with panoramic photography, becomes important. The last thing you want to do is have the camera and the rig be so heavy that the tripod starts to sag or fall over, because it wasn't rated to carry the weight.
But most professional tripods should get the job done. It's just going to be a matter of balancing out the weight of the tripod with its stability. And of course there are solutions. In this case, we've actually attached the head to what's called the platypod, which allows us to put this on a flat surface and shoot from it. So sometimes if I'm traveling somewhere where tripods aren't allowed, something like this means I could be a little bit sneakier and use a ledge or a level. Now a lot of times with 360 we want to get the camera a bit higher, but I'm sure you've run into situations where as soon as you set the tripod up, out come the park police, or out come the security guards, right? - Well, one of my favorite tips is be done with your panorama before the park police tell you to leave with your tripod.
But you can also use something like this where you can post it on a rock or the back of a park bench. It's also really fun to do one of those fun kinds of panorama. I like to shoot 360s of the family at brunch. I've shot 360s of our poker game. And those are great table-top solutions, too. - So the bottom line is have a stable platform, and better yet, have a stable and level platform to make the post-production that much easier.
- Uses for 360-degree images
- Creating spherical, cylindrical, and cubical projections
- Shooting 360-degree images with different types of cameras and lenses
- Choosing a tripod
- Controlling the camera remotely
- Positioning the camera on the tripod head
- Setting up the camera
- Shooting 360-degree images
- Using a helicopter or drone
- Stacking photos
- Developing panoramic images in Camera Raw and Photoshop
- Developing spherical panoramic images with Lightroom
- Processing panoramic images with PTGui and Photomatix
- Viewing and sharing interactive panoramas