The Art of Panorama on iPhone - Enlight Leak
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The Art of Panorama on iPhone

September 24, 2015

When you think outside of the regular three-by-four box, and embrace the expanse of the panorama, photography becomes a great deal more interesting.

For the first time in its revered existence, Instagram is now allowing photographers to break out of the square frame. It marks the maturation of a social network, and the recognition of the fact that great photos come in all shapes and sizes. Perhaps the most striking of the alternative formats is the panorama — a letterbox-shaped vista composed of multiple images that have been stitched together.Ski Banorama - Roman Boed

Many iPhone users will be familiar with this kind of image. After all, it has been an available option since the native camera app of iOS 6. But the true potential of panorama mode goes beyond simply capturing a wide view. One particularly creative exponent is René Charles Ritchie, a photographer whose artistic flair has earned him 38,000 followers on Instagram (@renecharlesritchie) and numerous commercial commissions. We asked him to share his knowledge to help you make the most of your panoramic exploits.

The Basics

Before you start experimenting, there are a few fundamentals that are worth knowing in order to keep your panoramas looking smooth. Obviously, slow steady movements help iOS to piece together each part of the image. The main challenge, however, is with exposure. As you pan across any scene, there are always likely to be significant variations in the amount of light on offer. For this reason, Ritchie advises taking manual control — “make sure to lock the exposure and focus where it needs to be. The iPhone camera app allows you to do this very easily.” If you want to try this, simply hold your finger on the focus target until you see the lock banner appear on screen. The lock will remain in place until you tap elsewhere on the screen.David Goehrig

When shooting regular panoramas, it is also recommended that you hold your phone upright. This gives you more vertical height to play with when you come to crop your image, meaning you can lose the jagged edges that often line the top and bottom of stitched images.

Creative Opportunities

The wide format, together with the layering of overlapped images, makes panorama mode ripe for experimentation. Ritchie discovered this, long before he owned a DSLR, while shooting with his iPhone 4S back in 2012. First, he realized that he could create “an almost fish-eye feel to photos using the panorama [mode] on a close-up subject, before cropping the photo down to a more recognized 3×4 format.”FullSizeRender-4

He then tried another technique — taking panoramas vertically, in order to make images that were very tall rather than very wide. This requires nothing more than a change in direction when you are shooting. But on one occasion, Ritchie stumbled upon a quirky effect. FullSizeRender

“During one of my attempts at shooting the Portlandia building in downtown Portland, I accidentally turned my phone a bit while panning upwards, but my mistake turned into something really cool. The building appeared to be seamlessly ‘swaying’. This only added to the surreal vibe I was attempting to capture, so I began to try it out everywhere.” He turned this trick into his trademark, publicizing the photos with his own #swayingstructures hashtag.Processed with VSCOcam with x1 preset


It is an undeniably cool look, and like most forms of panorama, Ritchie tells me that it is straightforward to achieve. “It’s actually very simple. While in the panorama feature, hold your iPhone in landscape format. Then begin to pan upwards, panning slightly to the left or right.”

One other technique which is popular with many iPhoneographers is 360º photography. You can capture this kind of immersive panorama using Google’s Street View app. Although it is designed primarily for mapping, it is also a very fine camera app. To take 360º images, select Spherical Camera from the main menu. Press the shutter button, and then keep centering the dot on screen within the circle, pausing on each occasion until the app fixes the image. You can then quite easily save finished panoramas to your Camera Roll (from within Street View, hit the share button, then Continue and Save Image).

It is also possible to create “tiny planets” with this imagery, where the 360º view is wrapped around itself to form a marble-like object. 19462097436_cb94c1af61_hIt is possible to do this by hand in Photoshop, but apps like Tiny Planets can automate the process for you. With the right panorama, the results can be stunning.8416002073_1d03d003c6_b

Subtle Edits

As with any photo, most panoramas will benefit from a few tweaks — to exposure, saturation, contrast, highlights and shadows (all under Image > Adjust > Tools tab in Enlight). However, there is one edit Ritchie recommends: “I usually add a vignette to draw focus.“ With such a wide expanse of scenery to look at, darkening the corners is a good way to point viewers in the right direction. You can add this style in Enlight by navigating to Filters > Analog > Tools tab > Vignette or in Filters > Duo > Vignette.IMG_0161

Keep Experimenting

The important thing to keep in mind is that all the above is merely for guidance — “Don’t be afraid to try something different than whatever is trending on social media platforms,” advises Ritchie. “You might just stumble onto something great.”


Written by: Mark Myerson.

Featured photographer: René Charles Ritchie is a creative iPhoneographer from Portland, Oregon. He spends much of his time capturing the outdoors, and he has worked with the likes of McDonalds and Gatorade.

Additional photographers (via Flickr): Greg Clarke (cover photo), Roman BoedDavid Goehring, tux0racerJuan Manuel Fluxa.




Mark Myerson
Mark Myerson

Mark is a freelance journalist and professional photographer based in the UK. He specializes in writing about the subject of iPhoneography, and is an avid mobile photographer in his spare time. When he isn't typing, he can usually be found exploring the countryside, camera in hand.

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