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Panoramic Photography for Beginners - Part 2 - What Do You Need to Create a Panorama?

In this series of articles, we're exploring how beginners can create their own ultra wide angle panoramic images using the technique of stitched panoramic photography. By learning this simple technique, you'll be able to come back from your next vacation with some unique images that really do capture the grandeur of the sights you've seen. So what do you need to create your own panoramic images?

1. Camera

First, you need a camera. You can use just about any ordinary digital or film camera. Of course, the better quality your camera, the better quality your photos will be, and hence the better the quality of your finished panorama.

But you don't need a fancy expensive camera to successfully make your own panoramas. I'd recommend a digital camera with at least 4 megapixels, and that has either a special panorama shooting mode, or failing that, a manual exposure mode.

2. Tripod (Optional)

I do own a very nice tripod, but I've never taken it on vacation. It's just too heavy and awkward to lug around. All my vacation panoramas have been shot hand-held. So you certainly don't need a tripod to get good results.

But... there have been plenty of times when I wished I had one! A monopod is a good compromise between quality and convenience, and they're well suited to panoramic work, where you need to rotate the camera around a single point. You might want to consider getting one.

For professional quality work, you can buy a special panoramic head for your tripod, which is designed to rotate your camera around the 'nodal point' of the lense, which reduces the amount of parallax error in your photos. However for vacation photography and most other outdoor work, you don't need one of these to get excellent results.

3. Scanner (Optional)

If you have a film camera, you'll need to first scan your prints, negatives or slides to convert them into computer files. You can do this yourself using a scanner, or you can arrange for your local photo lab to do it for you.

Most labs can scan your photos onto a CD-ROM at the same time as they develop and print your film, for a few extra dollars. This is probably the simplest way.

Or if you have some old photos that need scanning, you can arrange for your local lab to do it for you.

You should try to scan directly from the negatives (or slides) rather than from prints if you can -- the quality will be higher.

4. Computer

You need a computer. Nothing fancy or expensive -- just about any computer less than 5 years or so old should be fine.

The software that I recommend for beginners will run on a PC with a Pentium III or higher processor and at least 512 MB RAM. It also comes in a Macintosh version which will run on a Mac PowerPC G4 or higher with 512 MB RAM.

5. Software

You need a software package to stitch your images together. The package I recommend for beginners is called ArcSoft Panorama Maker (see below for a link to find out more about this software). It's cheap, easy to use, and it does a terrific job. It's also available as a trial download that you can use for 15 days for free. The trial version doesn't put any watermarks on the finished images, which some other software packages do, so you can can create as many complete panoramas as you want during the 15 day trial.

6. Printer (Optional)

Naturally, after you've created your panoramas, you'll probably want to print them out and show them off. Maybe even frame them and hang them on the wall. If you have a photo printer, you can print them out yourself, although you'll be limited to a fairly small size of print. Some printers can print on extra wide panoramic format paper. If you want to make a really large print, you'll need to get it done by a lab.

So that's all you need to get started creating your own panoramic images.

In the next article in this seriesArticle Submission, I'll share with you 7 great photo shooting tips to help you create your own perfect panoramas.

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Denis Knight is the author of "The Absolute Step-by-Step Guide to the Perfect Panorama." This unique, fully illustrated guide simply lays out what you need to do to create your own panoramas, in plain, simple, step-by-step language that anyone can follow. To learn more about how to make panoramas, visit

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