Creating panorama photos with Canon’s Photostitch software

Same scene, two views: bottom photo is a 'straight' shot taken with my Canon 16-35mm f2.8 zoom at about 20mm; the top panorama verson is shot with the same lens but set at 35mm, each image composed vertically and overlapped about 20%. (Copyright 2012 / Andrew Boyd)

Same scene, two views: bottom photo is a 'straight' shot taken with my Canon 16-35mm f2.8 zoom at about 20mm; the top panorama verson is shot with the same lens but set at 35mm, each image composed vertically and overlapped about 20%. (Copyright 2012 / Andrew Boyd)

I used to use a piece of panorama software by Arcsoft called Panorama Maker but lost the use of it when I switched back to Mac computers about two years ago. It was a great little PC-only utility that allowed lots of flexibility in the merge process. I started using the ‘Photomerge’ plugin that comes inside Photoshop CS5 after that, and it did a decent job. But I found it was far less agile at handling complicated merges, sometimes ‘bombing out’ if  I hadn’t created perfect overlaps for it to work with.

Now I’ve stumbled upon Canon’s wonderful Photostitch software, a little utility that comes bundled on the disk with just about any Canon digital camera. The version that I’m using which is pictured here is Version 3.2 from 2009.

I’ll take you through the steps of creating a panorama, in this case from six images shot on a recent foggy morning. I was out on what was turning out to be a very productive shooting trip when I found myself at the edge of a beautiful ‘oak alley,’ as we call these old live oak groupings in south Louisiana. Frequently these trees have outlived a now long-gone plantation house, lined up in two rows to form the ‘alley’ overhead. These stately old trees always seem to evoke a bit of mystery for me and I wanted to create something that gave a sense of that. But simply racking my wide lens all the way out to 16mm destroyed the intimacy and immediacy of the situation. I knew a series of images for a panorama was the answer.

I wasn’t using a tripod at the time, so I simply used my elbows to lock the camera against my sides and rotated my body about a quarter turn for each image. (The key is to remember to provide some overlap between each shot so the software can figure out where to stitch things together.)

Now for Canon’s Photostitch:

The software GUI is not fancy, but it works. (Copyright 2012 / Andrew Boyd)

The software GUI is not fancy, but it works. (Copyright 2012 / Andrew Boyd)

 

The interface is simple and intuitive to use. (Copyright 2012 / Andrew Boyd)

The interface is simple and intuitive to use. (Copyright 2012 / Andrew Boyd)

 

The stitching process in action. (Copyright 2012 / Andrew Boyd)

The stitching process in action. (Copyright 2012 / Andrew Boyd)

 

Your combined image will appear. Clicking the 'Display' icon will show you exactly where the merge took place between each image, in case you want to make adjustments before saving. In this case, everything was perfect. (Copyright 2012 / Andrew Boyd)

Your combined image will appear. Clicking the 'Display' icon will show you exactly where the merge took place between each image, in case you want to make adjustments before saving. In this case, everything was perfect. (Copyright 2012 / Andrew Boyd)

Hit the 'Save' tab. You'll get this dialogue box, asking you to name the new combined file and designate where you want it to go. It also shows you how it plans to crop the image. If you want to save it without the rectilinear crop, you can drag the crop sliders back out to save everything. (Copyright 2012 / Andrew Boyd)

Hit the 'Save' tab. You'll get this dialogue box, asking you to name the new combined file and designate where you want it to go. It also shows you how it plans to crop the image. If you want to save it without the rectilinear crop, you can drag the crop sliders back out to save everything. (Copyright 2012 / Andrew Boyd)

 

The final combined image. I shot vertically for my six images in order to maximize the file size of my new photograph. This one came in at a whopping 167MB combined, or 187in x 60in @72dpi. That's a lot of data! (Copyright 2012 / Andrew Boyd)

The final combined image. I shot vertically for my six images in order to maximize the file size of my new photograph. This one came in at a whopping 167MB combined, or 187in x 60in @72dpi. That's a lot of data! (Copyright 2012 / Andrew Boyd)

 

Hi, I’m Andrew Boyd, a.k.a. The Discerning Photographer, and I hope this post has been interesting and informative. Please leave me a comment about it, let me know what you’d like to see more of on the site! You can also sign up for email delivery of all future articles or my RSS feed. Or subscribe to our Facebook page or our Twitter feed. Thanks!–DiscerningPhotog

Posted in: How To

About the Author:

Photographer, videographer and photo editor. Host and creator of The Discerning Photographer web site. Currently a Canon shooter.

12 Comments on "Creating panorama photos with Canon’s Photostitch software"

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  1. Hi Andrew,
    I am a user of Hugin, a freely available Panorama stitcher for several operating systems and quite satisfied with the results.
    Especially in the mountains I do not use any tripod because of weight. This often leads to problems when stitching, but it’s just a matter of training

  2. …to align them properly when taking the images for a panorama photograph. I struggle with this quite a bit. As a result I have to crop a lot and loose information.
    Well, I guess, I need to concentrate a bit more and take more time and do not rush taking the pictures.

    These are one of mine:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/belimbach/5852857391/
    and
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/belimbach/5592541425/

    (Busy with different things of daily life) Bernd

  3. Bayou Bill says:

    I’ve used Canon Photostitch and Arcsoft Panorama Maker that Andrew mentions, and also Microsoft Image Composite Editor (http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/redmond/groups/ivm/ice/), but the Gallery shots at the Hugin site (http://hugin.sourceforge.net/) are totally awesome, so I’m looking forward to trying it. Thanks for pointing us to it.

  4. Ryan says:

    I’m curious about your thoughts on using a single utility program like this over the Photoshop features ‘Align’ and the built in macro utility ‘PhotoMerge.’ Do you think that the Photoshop results are inferior to the single utility program or maybe that the Canon software provides an alternative for a casual user who might not want to invest in a full-fledged copy of Photoshop?

  5. Ryan,
    This standalone app is superior. Both Photostitch and Panorama Maker (and apparently Hugin, which I’ve installed but haven’t played with yet) allow you much greater control over the whole process.

  6. Aldo says:

    Andrew

    I have a Canon 50D and I uploaded the latest version of Canon Photostitch which I access through Image Browser.

    I tried to create panoramic images several times with both raw and jpeg photos and each time I get stopped in my tracks with the notice :Unsupported image format” or “Unsupported color format”. I have had no problems with creating panoramas with those same photos in Photomerge. Any idea what’s going on? Is it a MAC related issue? Thanks

    a.d.f.

  7. I’m on a Mac too and am having no issues with either Raw or jpegs. I haven’t heard of this before; anybody else have an idea?

  8. Ray DeLea says:

    Andrew,

    I use both Photostich and Photoshop Photomerge with my Canon EOS 50D. When taking panoramas at 18mm setting (using my 18 – 210 zoom) I am finding that the image (when stitched) is “bending” rendering a rather strange effect. Should I not be trying to shoot panoramas at the 18 mm focal length?

    Ray

  9. 18mm will result in a tough stitch since there’s a lot of built-in curvature at that focal length. I would suggest you rack back in a bit, to maybe 24mm or so and shoot VERTICALLY with more overlapping frames to create the pan.

  10. Donn Paris says:

    I just installed PhotoStitch 3.1 and just as quickly uninstalled it. Compared to either Panaorama Maker 4, which I’ve used for several years (4 is an immense improvement over previous versions of Panorama Maker) or Hugin, which I downloaded and started using in April while traveling because I forgot to install Panorama Maker on a new laptop, PhotoStitch I found to be clunky and far more difficult to use.

  11. Fridrich says:

    I use Photoshop’s inbuilt panorama function to do the same. I think the base of a good panorama is not the software but the method how you shoot the pictures. A tripod is essential imho.

  12. Al says:

    Hi Andrew, just wanted to thank you. I recent bought a canon dslr and did my first panorama today, without having to upload any extra software or consult any manuals thanks to you.
    Keep the good advice coming!

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