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Panoramic photography with android and iOS smartphones

The panoramic (Pano) feature in the standard iPhone Camera app is a great way to record wide and imersive scenes that you wouldn’t normally be able to capture in a single shot. Panoramic photography, just like any other type of image capture needs to be planned. What is the main subject, where should it appear in the composition? The stretched shape of the panoramic image is an unfamiliar format to most viewers so careful thought needs to be given to how you will lead their eyes through the picture.

Taken with an iPhone 7 using the 'Pano' option in the standard camera app. panoramic photography

Panoramic image of Pickering Station, North Yorkshire

Consider where the image will start and where it will finish. Are there any any distracting elements in the shot? If people or objects are moving through the scene, you could let them pass, if the distracting element is permanent you may need to choose a different composition or even remove it later in Photoshop. Check to see where the sun or other main lights are in the scene and prepare your exposure accordingly. The normal AE/AF lock (touch on a chosen area of screen for a couple of seconds) still works with the Pano option. In the shots of the station above, I locked the exposure on the station entrance to avoid this area overexposing.

Most smartphone photographers enjoy the portability of their camera and don’t want to be restricted by tripods or other accessories. For this reason, most smartphone photographs are taken ‘hand held’. The serious panoramic photographer would use a tripod and possibly a special panoramic tripod head designed for this type of work. The Pano feature in the camera app does provide some guidance for the smartphone photographer. The built in accelerometer detects when the camera is tilted away from its starting position and guides the user to make corrections. In the image below, the large white arrow is the current position of the camera, the yellow line is the level which you should try to keep the white angle on as you rotate.

Guidance arrow, Pano option of iOS Camera app

Guidance arrow, Pano option of iOS Camera app

In the screen shot from the camera app (above), the panoramic image will start on the left and pan right, this is the default but if you want to pan the other way, click on the large white arrow to swap.

You should practice the shot a couple of times to check if the composition works and how you rotate the phone and your body. You should check the shot carefully as some problems are hard to see on a small screen. Parallax is a major issue with panoramic photographs, particularly with subjects with a lot of straight lines such as the examples in this post. This is one of the main advantages in a dedicated tripod head. If possible, try to rotate the phone close to the body rather than at arms length.

Detail from panoramic shot showing distortion to track due to camera shake. panoramic photography

Detail from panoramic shot showing distortion to track due to parallax and some camera movement.


Detail of panoramic shot showing subject movement. panoramic photography

Detail of panoramic shot showing subject movement.

As the panoramic picture is recording an extreme wide angle image (up to 360 degrees) on to a flat 2D image it will often show extreme distortion (two images below).

Panoramic image from below a foot bridge. panoramic photography

Panoramic image from below a foot bridge. Taken with iPhone 7 and Moment Superfish lens.

Extreme wide angle image of station platform, Pickering Station. panoramic photography

Extreme wide angle image of station platform, Pickering Station

While it doesn’t quite fall into a post on panoramic photography, I thought I would test the TinType app on one of the pictures.  As a passionate film (analogue?) photographer I should have a real issue with apps like TinType but perhaps, it could be a ‘gateway’ app which opens people’s minds to the wonderful world of early photographic techniques?

Panoramic picture of Pickering Station taken with iPhone and processed with TinType. Panoramic photography

Panoramic picture of Pickering Station taken with iPhone and processed with TinType

All images taken in this post were shot on an iPhone 7, some were captured using the Superfish V1 Moment Lens.

All images taken at Pickering Station on North Yorkshire Moors Railway.

Panoramic photography is just one of the topics I cover in my ‘Selfie Help Workshop’ to help people take better pictures or video with their smartphones. Please contact me if you would like more information.

Workshop – high quality, video, photography and audio capture with smartphones

High quality media capture with smartphones

This enjoyable and practical workshop provides participants with the knowledge and skills to record the best quality media with their smartphones.

The session has been offered as part of staff development activities, for startup businesses looking to shoot their own crowd funding videos and for groups who want to learn these skills for fun.

Topics covered;

  • preparation
  • focus and exposure control
  • supports and stabilising
  • audio recording
  • video recording
  • Advanced photography, video and audio features
  • Apps for capture and editing

Using a gimbal to stabilise video on smartphone

Stabilising a smartphone

Workshops can be tailored to 1:1 sessions up to groups of over 100 attendees. While based in the Bath and Bristol area this workshop has been delivered to companies and organisations across the UK.

Clients include; Microsoft, Marcus Evans Linguarama, University of Bath, Royal Photographic Society, WI, 

Video of 14,000 TEU container ship

Produce, Consume, Dispose, Repeat…….

Our modern economies are now highly dependent on consumer spending. When in recession, governments often rely on a ‘consumer led recovery’ to bring the economy into the black. ‘Consumer confidence’ is a measure of the strength of an economy. Uncontrolled consumption however is unsustainable. In the west, we are consuming goods at an ever greater speed, the resources we consume are difficult or impossible to replenish while the carbon released and pollution created is leading to a rapidly degraded natural environment.

A fleet of huge container ships is needed to bring the goods we consume to our doors in The West. The ship in the video carries up to 14,000 containers. The largest currently at sea carry around 21,000 containers and there are plans to build even larger ships in the near future.

The video has been created as part of a project I am working on in my MA in Fine Art.

Global trade

Each year, nearly twice the number of Ikea catalogues are printed than copies of the bible. This makes it the most printed book in the world. Much of what Ikea sell is manufactured in the Far East and transported to its stores in the West. The paper ships in this illustration are made from pages from the current Ikea catalogue.

paper ships - global trade

paper ships – global trade