I’ve been lucky enough to travel a lot and when I travel, I stay in a hotel or some sort of vacation rental. Often times, I’d like to document these places but I always have trouble translating what I see to the camera. I even have a relatively wide angle lens (18mm) but it still seems to fall short.
Well, I think I may have found a solution. I just got back from a trip to Savannah, GA and I employed a new use, at least for me, of a panorama shot. Before I get into the details, let me list out a few things I’ve recently learned you can do with Panoramas:
1) You can use the Pano mode to create clones (see this article)
2) You don’t have to use the entire field of view for a panorama
3) You can change the direction from Left-to-Right to Right-to-Left as you pan the camera.
For this discussion, I’m going to focus on this second point. The default field of view is roughly 180 degrees, meaning that the image will be able to cover what you see from your far left all the way to your far right. But just because you can do this doesn’t mean you have to. For instance, if you so choose, you could cover 75 degrees or 100 degrees or anything else less than the full range. It’s really just up to you. All you need to do is press the shutter button a second time and that stops the pano. Very simple but also quite useful.
So what does all this have to do with taking better rental shots you ask. While the lenses on our phones are slightly wide (on my iPhone 4S it’s about 35mm) it’s not so wide it will be able to capture full rooms. In order to capture the full area, you would need to take several shots and stitch them together in Photoshop, or some other post processing tool. Below are a couple of single shots of the bathroom and the master bedroom. As you can see, while not necessarily bad shots, it doesn’t scream “spend your vacation here”.
But let’s see how these rooms look when we go into panorama mode. All done without any post processing too. The real trick here is having a steady hand. As you’ll see in some of my shots, there are some weird things going on with parts of the image. But with a little trial and error, those should be able to be eliminated pretty easily. Here are the same rooms from above as well as a couple more:
One of the big challenges with taking these shots is the lighting. In some of the above shots, the light shining through the windows is blown out because the darker parts of the image are properly exposed. While they may have gone a bit far, especially in the kitchen, I’m okay with that because it makes it feel like a warmer place to be.
Panorama mode won’t ensure that your vacation shots are awesome, but with a little patience, they should improve considerably. And more importantly, you can get a shot that reminds you of how you felt on that trip.