The Power of Panoramas
It's human nature to get stuck in a rut. It happens to all of us.
Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
The 4x6 aspect ratio (3:2) originates from the invention of the Leica cameras in the 1920's. It's interesting to note that when digital sensors were invented and refined for modern DSLR's they defaulted to the same aspect ratio.
Read more here: 35mm Format
As a result, the 4x6 or a 3:2 ratio is by far and away the most common image size delivered by most commercial photographers. It is so common that some people have a hard time visualizing architecture images delivered any other way. I once had a marketing director for an architectural firm tell me that she couldn't accept any other ratio. She explained that her marketing and design staff wouldn't know how to place them in any of their marketing materials.
As an architectural photographer who shoots residential architectural photography as well as corporate architecture, civic architecture, and interior design photography, I have learned to create images outside the box. Literally.
The advantage of creating panorama images is that the view approaches what we see with our own two eyes. A panorama allows us to see what we would otherwise miss if we glanced left, right, up, or down. The resulting image has greater impact; a "wow" factor.
Cropped to a 2:3 ratio
There are numerous ways to create a panorama for architecture. As a Minneapolis commercial photographer, I look for opportunities to shoot at least one panorama on every photo shoot.
I was first drawn to the idea of shooting panorama images when I was still shooting with film. At that time, the predominant camera for this purpose was the Fuji GX617 panoramic camera. It was called a 617 because it used a sheet of film or a portion of a 120 roll of film measuring 6cm x 17cm. It was a bulky camera and kind of tricky to use. However, it made spectacular images.
"Queen of the Badlands" Fuji GX617 camera shot on Fuji Velvia film
Fast forward to just a few years ago. I started using a special panorama head with my digital camera. The head involves rotating the camera around an axis on the top of the tripod. It gives me latitude to produce panoramas of almost any width. Several images, sometimes up to 8 different views on the rotating axis, are stitched together in post processing to create the panorama.
Singapore Harbor, photographed using a panoramic head
One of the most important lenses I use when I am taking architecture photos of projects is a Canon 35mm Tilt-Shift lens. Its greatest use, particularly for wider focal length images, is to eliminate key stoning or perspective distortion. The lens allows me to shift the view up and down to reveal best features without tilting the camera up and down.
For panorama photography, this lens also allows me to create vertical panoramas by shifting the lens up and down through multiple exposures. Again, all of the captures are stitched together in post processing.
The vertical panorama illustrated above makes a very good point. By shooting it as a panorama, you can see the objects on the table in the lower foreground but also appreciate the beautiful detail of the ceiling. If we were confined to a normal 35mm frame, the picture might look like this:
Here's another example of a vertical panorama:
Museé de Baccarat, Paris, France
Panoramas are useful to show the breadth of a project. Here are a couple of examples showing how architectural projects were better illustrated by cropping out upper and lower areas of the view that didn't contribute to the impact of the photo.
Panorama images are also useful for landscape architecture.
Most recently, I was able to expand the use of my Tilt-Shift lens by rotating it on its own axis and creating horizontal panoramas by shooting and shifting from left to right.
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