7 Tips on Composing Better Panoramic Images

 
 2 017 - Panorama Route road-trip, Blyde River Canyon, South Africa

2017 - Panorama Route road-trip, Blyde River Canyon, South Africa

It’s actually okay to snap a few “bad” panoramic images on a cheap camera or smartphone. But how can you make them look a little more interesting?

Panoramics are something I feel go in, and then out, of fashion all the time... it's a bit weird. But I think there's an important time and place for pano's. They're really awesome at not only giving the viewer a broad overview of the surroundings but also seem to evoke tons of memories and good times had. 

I was rummaging through the dungeons of my photo archives from about 10-years back and came across a couple of pano’s I just could not bring myself to delete, even though they weren’t great images at all. Like, they're actually pretty horrible.

Now, why do we tend to keep these kinds of photos? I believe it’s the nostalgia. It's not always about pure quality and the sharpest image. If your photographs evoke a good memory and wonderful nostalgia, I think it doesn't really matter in the end. 

READ MORE: 13 Simple Techniques For Better Compositions

As you can by now surmise, this post isn't about creating high-quality award-winning stupendously beautiful print-worthy jaw-droppingly awesome panoramic images. It’s about taking something - anything - without worrying too much about how it will all turn out. Hey, maybe the images even turn out crappy! But in the future, the future you will thank you for taking the shot anyway. 

Striving for improvements each and every day when it comes to your photography is key, but sometimes it’s also okay to let go and experiment, to have fun, to not care if it’s perfect or not or over-exposed, or skew, or pixelated. 

Read on to see some of my “crappy” panoramic shots that have been drawn out from the dungeons. I've also listed a few hints and tips to help you take some pano’s that are a little more interesting, and maybe even a little less crappy. 

2016 - Hiking "Big Daddy" dune in Sossusvlei, Namibia

 

1. Put Your Subject in The Corner

2008 - Road-trip to Brandberg Mountain near Uis, Namibia

Place someone (or something) in the corner of the pano, in the foreground, for some added interest and to give the whole image some scale and depth. Left to right is best, with the person looking or facing into the rest of the frame. Right to the left can also work - the idea is just to have fun with it and create something that captures the moment.

2016 - View of the Orange River near Noordoewer, Namibia

 

2. Use The Seesaw Technique

2017 - Panorama Route road-trip, Blyde River Canyon, South Africa

This is one of my favourite composition techniques and works well when you have more than one person with you, and you’d like to include everyone in the shot.  Place a person (or groups of people) on either end of the intended panoramic. This also helps to add some interest to the shot, create a sense of balance, and can also help to frame the subject or scenery in the background - in this case, the “Three Rondavels” at the Blyde River Canyon.

Below, see the same technique used while visiting the Makuya Nature Reserve - near the northern reaches of the Kruger National Park.

2017 - Makuya Nature Reserve, Limpopo Province, South Africa

 

3. Get Low, if You Can
 

 

  2008 - Sun-bleached log, Fish River Canyon, Namibia

2008 - Sun-bleached log, Fish River Canyon, Namibia

Getting low to the ground can be a fun technique to use, especially if you lack any obvious foreground interest.

Find something interesting, crouch or lie down, and pan from left to right, or vice-versa, and create your shot. I like to use old logs, rocks, and things like that because I enjoy the textures. You can literally shoot whatever you find interesting, and capture the interesting background as well. Just go for it!

2008 - Log in a dry riverbed, North Western Namibia - by Ken Treloar

 

4. Look For Leading Lines

 

  2012 - Lakeside road, San Martin de Los Andes, Argentina

2012 - Lakeside road, San Martin de Los Andes, Argentina

Sometimes there’s a nice path or road you want to photograph - try and capture it within a pano shot. If you can imagine your panoramic divided into 6 images or blocks, I like to place curvy (or straight) roads and wavy lines at about the 2nd or 3rd image mark. It’s kind of like a “rule of thirds” vibe I suppose, and it gives your shot a sort of asymmetry, as well as drawing the viewer’s eyes further into the bigger picture. Sometimes just having any lines in there somewhere is bound to bring about an interesting image, even if it does look a bit weird.

  2012 - Path through the rock in the Salvador Dali Desert, Bolivia

2012 - Path through the rock in the Salvador Dali Desert, Bolivia

Sometimes combining some of these techniques can also be fun. Like adding foreground objects and having leading lines, or foreground objects, and a lot of open space. Play around with your compositions and don't be afraid to break the "rules" of composition a bit when creating panoramics.
 

  2012 - Mirador Bandurrias, San Martin de Los Andes, Argentina

2012 - Mirador Bandurrias, San Martin de Los Andes, Argentina

 

5. Practice With Horizons

 2013 - Sunset at sea, en route to Southern Madagascar

2013 - Sunset at sea, en route to Southern Madagascar

One way to take better panoramics is to keep it all steady and follow a predictable line. Chances are you will not be using a tripod, so take a deep breath, hold it in, and swivel at the hips from one side to the other all while keeping your hands and arms as stable and possible. This is best practised where the horizon is nice and straight already like shots taken at sea or on the coast or somewhere really flat and level where there are wide open spaces.

  2012 - Mirador el Cani, with a view of 3 snow-capped volcanoes and an Araucaria forest, near Pucon, Chile

2012 - Mirador el Cani, with a view of 3 snow-capped volcanoes and an Araucaria forest, near Pucon, Chile

 

6. Remember, You Can Go Vertical

Pano’s are not only fun going horizontally. Experiment with a vertical “up-and-down” panoramic. I find this especially fun when I am shooting gaps in forest canopies, or when standing near a cliff edge and I’m shooting with arms stretched and the camera pointed back at the cliff. Try it out!

  2012 - Araucaria trees, Mirador el Cani, Pucon, Chile

2012 - Araucaria trees, Mirador el Cani, Pucon, Chile

 
 

7. Have fun!

Lastly, remember to have fun. Just, have, fun. I really don’t know why people don’t take more panoramic photos. It can be a whole lot more inclusive than a selfie, and if you really only want to capture one person, or nobody at all but the scenery in front of you, you can - it’s totally awesome, and totally up to you. So what if it comes out skew or blurry... you will look back on these crappy shots and smile because they've reminded you of that time you had a whole bunch of fun. 

 2012 - Pano stitched the wrong way by mistake... but hey, brings back memories!

2012 - Pano stitched the wrong way by mistake... but hey, brings back memories!

 2017 - Fish River Canyon sunrise, near Ais-Ais - Namibia

2017 - Fish River Canyon sunrise, near Ais-Ais - Namibia

  2017 - The Swartberg Pass, near Prince Albert, South Africa

2017 - The Swartberg Pass, near Prince Albert, South Africa

  2017 - The Swartberg Pass, near Prince Albert, South Africa

2017 - The Swartberg Pass, near Prince Albert, South Africa

 

I hope these 7 tips will inspire to dust off those old cameras and play around with the panoramic feature. Don't let professional, high-quality panoramics put you off from creating your own shots that will always bring back heaps of great memories! Just get out there and create.

Thanks for being here, 
Ken