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Stitching Panoramas using Autopano Pro

Digital Photography Workflow Series: Techniques and Tips by Jean-Sébastien Monzani, September 2008 (updated June 2010)


Digital photography requires a solid workflow, allowing for professional preparing of digital photo files for the web and print. For the Digital Photography Workflow series, we consulted with a number of experienced professional photographers who are also stellar photo.net members and frequent contributors to the Photo.net Digital Darkroom forum, to walk us through their specific photography techniques and tips on post-processing images.

In this article, Jean-Sébastien offers advice on how to stitch together panoramas using Autopano Pro. The article is enhanced with illustrative figures and screen shots, and includes example images from Jean’s portfolio. Whether you are just entering the world of digital photography and need some tips and advice on how best to post-process your images, or are a seasoned pro, the insights shared here should be helpful with your own digital post-processing techniques.

What you can do with Autopano Pro

Autopano Pro has been created to automatically process images and find panoramas from your local files, even if you had no prior knowledge and that your camera was set to fully-automatic operation. However, I would advise you to at least set your white balance manually before shooting. When the contrast is high, you might need to shoot several photos, and adjust exposure to get details in the shadows and highlights. Autopano will then be able to adjust luminosity and make the best of your photos. Here is a set of photos that I have shot [31 and 45].

Using Autopano to Create Panoramas

Step 1

Autopano reads JPEG, TIFF, PNG, BMP, as well RAW from many cameras. Once you launch it [Screenshot 1] and open a folder [3], it will automatically detect the panoramas from the images you’ve loaded, trying to stitch them together. Options can be set to help this process as you can see from the dialog box.

Step 2

Once images are loaded [4], pressing the Play button will launch the automatic detection of panoramas [5]. This takes some time as lens distortion and various adjustments are also addressed during this process [7]. I would advice to only run it on selected files, rather than the whole directory of your holidays photographs.

Step 3

The result is a list of available panoramas from you to choose from [8, 9].

You can use the Edit button to adjust a panorama or simply render it by clicking on Process .

The panorama editor provides several options [14].

We are going to have a more detailed look at them. First thing you notice is that the image is tilted. Use to fix it [16].

Step 4

Various tone-mapping options are possible. For a quick start, you can go to Tone Mapping RH2 [17]. The dialog offers a way to adjust luminosity through the Key value [18] as you can see on the two examples [19, 20]. You can play with that until you are satisfied or use the Levels as described below. The Tone Mapping RH2 is actually more useful for HDR, as we will see later on.

Step 5

Various projections are also possible. Architecture fans will love the Planar projection [21] whereas regular panorama users will probably stick to the Spherical. [22] The Planar projection will tend to create straight lines whereas Spherical better recreates what you have seen.

Step 6

The Levels are similar to those in Photoshop. Playing with the Gamma point [23] makes the image brighter or darker, whereas the black and white points of the histogram help you make sure to achieve the tonal range that you are looking for. In the example, I could for instance raise the black point a little bit to the right until it touches the histogram.

Step 7

Once you’re done, click on Process and you’ll get an option dialog [26]. It is possible to save your file in Photoshop format, keeping the layers intact for further adjustments. I found it quite useful to set up my DPI to 300, and then move the scale factor [27] until I’m pleased with the size of the generated image.


Text ©2008 Jean-Sébastien Monzani. Photos ©2008 Jean-Sébastien Monzani.

Article revised June 2010.

Readers' Comments


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Steve Brudney , October 03, 2008; 07:39 P.M.

What's Autopano Pro? Who makes it? Is it free? What does it cost? No links?

P C Headland , October 04, 2008; 05:38 A.M.

Jean-S├ębastien: I believe the latest versions of autopano pro can read RAW files.

Steve: See the Autopano Pro Website for all the info. It's not free, it costs 99 Euro.

Hannah Thiem , October 07, 2008; 11:09 A.M.

Links to the Autopano Pro web site have now been added to the article. Thanks for bringing that to our attention!

Rami Tohme , October 23, 2008; 09:32 A.M.

May I also post this link to the documentation and video tutorials of Autopano Pro : http://www.autopano.net/wiki

Rick Du Boisson , October 26, 2008; 02:22 P.M.

I've been quite successful making HDR panos using CS3 for all the processing - is there any great advantage in using Autopano Pro over CS3? Thanks, RickDB

Dennis McKenzie , October 29, 2008; 01:25 P.M.


Alaska Range

I have had great results making pans by doing it all by hand in PS not using any pano programe. I usually use my 80-400 Nikon VR lens hand held. The trick is to set the exposer lock so that all the shot are exposed the same then in PS open a new file big enough say 12 by 40 and place the images in this space till they line up very well. You can use the clone brush to touch up where they meet to make it seemless if needed. The main thing is that all the frames are exposed the same. Even then it is possable to use leveles and color balance and Sat. to make them all the same. A lot more work but most of the time it is doable. I find this easier than learning a new programe. For more pans check out my portfilo.

Peter Wang , November 12, 2008; 02:40 P.M.

http://hugin.sourceforge.net/

Hugin is a free alternative to Autopano Pro. The latest version, 0.7.0, has vignetting correction.

Charles Eagan , December 26, 2008; 10:35 P.M.

I was considering Autopano Pro. I downloaded a trial copy and made a simple test. I took a portrait photo and split it up into 4 overlapping photos and had Autopano Pro stitch it. It was about 80% successful, it matched the four parts ok, but did some barrel distortion to some portions and one hand was no longer attached to the models arm. I remembered Microsoft advertising a new photostiching program Windows Live Photogallery. I was hoping the had a version for windows vista, and they did! Downloaded and install (took some time for just the one app.) then ran the same test. I could not tell the stitched photo apart from the original, I had say that test was 100%. Best of all the software is available for free from Microsoft. The microsoft version also does alot more with online photo albums, slide shows, etc.

Michael Brossart , January 16, 2009; 04:30 P.M.

Any focal length or pre-stitch processing recomendations to minimize distorion at the edges of the individual frames before you stitch them? For example, if you shoot too wide, you may have some barrel distortion issues at each frame which, I would think, would introduce blur within the resulting photo at the seams of the individual photos. Sorry if this sounds like a rookie question, but I'm a rookie.

chris burgess , January 01, 2011; 09:23 A.M.

Unfortunately (and perhaps predictably) Windows Live Photo Gallery doesn't do RAW files.

Fabio Ceresa , February 06, 2012; 02:33 A.M.

Any comments on the Gigapan Epic Pro? It seems very interesting.


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