MacMost Now 797: iPhone Panoramas

With iOS 6 you can take panoramic photos using an iPhone 5, iPhone 4s or the 5th generation iPod touch. Panoramas can be used to capture a landscape, but they can also be used for up-close wide or tall shots. They work best if objects are not moving, but can tolerate some movement. Since they are a composition of several photos, they are more detailed than a single shot. You can use panoramas to create some interesting photos.

Video Transcript
Hi this is Gary with MacMost Now. On today's episode let's take a closer look at panoramic photos on the iPhone.

So taking a panoramic photo is a feature of iOS 6 and it only works on three devices; the iPhone 5, the iPhone 4S, and the most recent iPod Touch. Of course if you are watching this video in the future it is probably going to work with future iPhones and iPod Touches as well. It is not clear if it will ever work with the iPad, perhaps.

Here is how you use it. You go to your camera app as you would normally. In the camera app you have your options at the top. Tap on Options there. Then you tap Panorama. Then you get a slightly different camera interface. It has this box in the middle with a line and an arrow. You still have the same camera button at the bottom.

So you want to start by hitting that camera button and slowly moving your iPhone from left to right. Let's use an example here. I will just hoover over my keyboard so you can see and I will press the camera button and then I will very slowly move. If you go a little too fast you can see it tell you at the bottom to slow down. Like that. So you want to slow down. That means you are introducing errors. Now you can hit the Done button there before you get to the end or you can just wait until you get to the end meaning you've gotten to the maximum panoramic size.

Here is some video of me doing it live and outside. Unfortunately my screen protector is really reflective and the sun is shining brightly so it is difficult to see the screen. But you can see I'm doing the same steps here. I just started the pano and I am swiping from left to right. Here is the result of that shot.

As you can see it creates a pretty cool looking image. But notice that some things work better than others. All the static objects look really great but if you notice you can see the same car twice on the highway there because the car is moving. So it got in two different shots that were used as part of the panoramic. But it doesn't mean that things have to be perfectly still either.

In this shot I caught a field that was populated with geese. I couldn't have gotten this shot with one photo because it was a wide area and you can see there in the patterns of grass that it is a distorted panoramic. But the geese themselves, although they are moving slowly aren't repeated anywhere and look perfectly fine in the photo like it was taken in one instant rather than over several seconds.

Here is a shot I took in a museum. This would have been an impossible shot without this feature because there are two huge murals on two walls that are kind of about 45 degrees to 90 degrees of each other and I was able to capture them both by standing in the middle of the room and panning from left to right.

Now here is a feature even if people who use this all the time might not know about. You can actually go from right to left instead of from left to right. Just tap on the box there and you can see that it switches back and forth. So I'm just tapping on the box there showing preview and you can change directions.

Don't be afraid to use this going vertically either. The interface is going to remain horizontal here but you can still go vertically. You can do some cool special effects with this. For instance suppose you were in a tight space and want to take a wide picture of some close up item like some books on a bookshelf. Here I was able to take a pano of a shelf here. I could not have fit this in a single image because there was not enough room for me to back up far enough to take this picture. You can see that it is not perfect. It gets better the slower you move the camera. So that is the key. Patience.

Now in this case I was actually able to step back. I was just doing an example and you can see here I did another one where I got an entire vertical bookcase here using a pano by holding the camera on its side and swiping it from top to bottom. You can see it distorted it, of course it did, as you would expect. It kind of creates a neat artistic look not something you would want as a real photo of the bookcase but maybe something you would want if you needed a record of what was on there.

So after all the one thing you might want to remember about panoramics is that they are a combination of several images. So they are larger than if you took a single photo. A single photo may on the drive be only two or three megs compressed as a jpeg. But this is several photos in here so is actually 6-7 megs and that means that I can zoom in and get lots of detail here and actually read titles on the spines of the books which I normally wouldn't be able to if I had taken the photo at normal resolution and then tried to zoom in.

So for instance going back to this museum photo and looking at it here in preview, it is about 16 megs. Much bigger than you would expect in a normal photo which means I can zoom in quite a bit and look around in the photo and see a lot more details than you would expect from an image when you start with that.

Here is another example. Here is a picture I took by the side of the river in Portland and you can see here that the fence goes off in two different angles. So you can see that it is a very wide panoramic and I can zoom and this is a 15 meg photo so you can see I get a lot more detail than you would expect normally from the image.

So there is really nothing new about taking panoramics on the iPhone. Since the very first one when apps were introduced you were able to use third party apps and take several photos and they would stitch them together. What is new here is a combination of lots of things. Being able to do it. Being able to do it with a swipe and not have it have to compile the images afterwards. It does it instantly while you are working. It is very convenient and easy and it works very well. So Apple has basically taken a lot of preexisting things, combined them, and made them work very well. One thing that Apple does all the time.

A lot of people are using panoramic images to take panoramic landscapes but I find it also useful to take close ups and unusual shots as well. So try different things. For instance one thing that I want to try is taking a panoramic by circling around a large tree trunk and see how that turns out. It probably won't create a picture that is very useful but it might create an interesting texture of the bark of the tree.

So the new panoramic feature is a really cool thing. It works seamlessly in a lot of cases. In other cases you just have to have a lot of patience and have no real expectations of what you will get other than you will get a representation of what you are seeing that may be more interesting than taking a plain photograph.

So try it out and see what kind of cool interesting things you can do with the panoramic feature.

Until next time this is Gary with MacMost Now.

Comments: One Response to “MacMost Now 797: iPhone Panoramas”

    Dana
    12/7/12 @ 6:34 pm

    I admit I don’t take many photos with my iPhone, and may be doing something basically wrong, but did want to try doing a panorama. I attempted to (hurriedly) take a pic of a community orchestra from the podium right before a concert (so everyone was dressed up and lit on the stage). But the resulting picture was way overexposed. I’m guessing this was because my starting point for the panorama was relatively dark, and became brighter as I turned towards the majority of the group. Any comments? Is there any exposure compensation during the panorama process, or does it need to be limited to relatively evenly lit subjects?

    Thanks!

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