There are many excellent tutorials on how to create panoramic photos on the web. However, most of them involve buying an SLR camera, new (expensive) lenses and an (expensive) panoramic tripod head attachement. It is true that for professional quality panoramas this equipment will help, however it is possible to get something 90% as good with far, far less expensive equipment.
In fact, all of the panoramas on this site were produced using the following:
So, my message is: anyone can take good quality panoramic photos using equipment they probably already own.
It doesn't have to be expensive. Using a tripod will allow your images to fit together seamlessly. You can create a panorama without one, but it is much easier with one.
Preferably use one that has a spirit level built in to allow you to level it (see Step 2). My tripod cost about £15 and is perfectly adequate for my purposes.
After attaching your camera, adjust the tripod head and legs until you have the camera completely level. If you don't do this then your panorama will turn out wonky!
Many cameras (although not all) allow you to manually adjust the camera exposure settings. Some cameras have a 'panorama' setting which fixes the exposure automatically. Check your camera's User Manual if you're not sure.
Why bother? Cameras usually change the exposure depending on the brightness of the scene. In a panorama, the lighting across the scene can vary greatly depending on sun angle and surface brightness. If you leave your camera to compensate for this by automatically changing the exposure for each image then it makes it much harder to create a seamless panorama and you may be able to see the joins in the finished product.
Right, so now you're all set. Your camera is on a level tripod and the exposure is fixed. Start taking your pictures. I suggest that you zoom all the way out first to minimise the number of photos needed to complete your panorama. Make sure that you have some overlap between each image.
Some points to bear in mind:
Note: if you're sending your panoramas to tresco360.co.uk and have got this far then your work is now done! There is no need for you to stitch your images -you can send your individual images to me and, time permitting, I'll do all the hard work!
For those interested in doing it themselves, read on... OK, so you have a complete set of images and you're thinking "How do you stitch them together into a single panorama?".
The good news is that the software you need to do this is free.
Hugin: I thoroughly recommend you download this great software which will produce excellent quality seamless photo stitches. (I used to use the Canon PhotoStitch software that came with my camera, but believe me -it is not in the same league as Hugin).
There are some good tutorials explaining how to use Hugin. Basically, you can load load in all your images into Hugin, click a button and after a few minutes thinking it'll produce a nice perfectly stitched panoramic image! Wonderful!
If you want to display your panorama on your own website then one good method of doing this is to use FlashPano. This can be bought for about €40. It does require a small amount of technical ability to setup though (a basic understanding of HTML would help). Also, it works best using 'cube' format images which Hugin does not output. To create these I output my images as 'Equirectangular' from Hugin and the converted to cubes using 'pano2faces.bat' in the DOSUP utilities
For those wanting a more point and click solution Pano2VR by Garden Knome Software software is available.
A free flash panorama player "PanoSalado" is also available although I haven't used this yet so can't comment on it's quality, but I'd be interested to hear any reviews.
So, you're done! Hopefully you should now have everything you need to create your own panoramic images! Enjoy!