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   Panoramic Images and Understanding Aspect Ratio
Marjan Polek
Panoramas are a great way to show off wide view images.


  What is considered a panoramic image?  

The term panoramic refers to an image that is either shot or cropped to create a wide field of view. Most panoramic's are in the horizontal format and depict subjects like landscapes, skylines and sweeping vistas. But understand that they are not limited to only horizontals, long vertical images can also be printed in panoramic sizes. An image is considered a panoramic when is has an aspect ratio of 2:1 or more, for example 3:1, 4:1 or as long as 10:1.

     What is aspect ratio?  

For those of you that are mathematically challenged....you know who you are. You're the ones that gave a big sign when you read the words "aspect ration" in the paragraph above. But worry not, I'm going to make this really easy to understand. Aspect ratio is the proportions of an image referred to in width to height. For example a 3:1 aspect ratio would refer to a print that is 30 inches wide by 10 inches high. The problem is when we talk about photographs we normally use sizes that refer to the short side first for example 4x6 or 8x10 so for the sake of clarity we will refer to aspect ratios with the short side first.

A 4x6 image has an aspect ratio of 2:3 or you can also think about it like a math problem, 2 by 3 if you double both numbers you have 4 by 6 or 4x6.

Now we'll look at another common photographic size 8x10. The aspect ratio of an 8x10 print is 4:5. To figure out what a prints aspect ratio is you would take the two numbers and begin to break them down proportionally to their lowest common denominator. Lets take the example of a 16x20 print, if you proportionally divide both numbers 16 and 20 by 2 you get 8x10, then divide both of those numbers by two again and you get 4x5. 4:5 is the aspect ratio of an 8x10, 16x20 and 24x30.

When discussing panoramic images the aspect ratio can be anywhere from 1:2 up to as wide or wider than 1:10. Most panoramic images will fall into the category or 1:2, 1:2.5, 1:3 or 1:4. Below are examples of how the different aspect ratios compare.


  aspect ratio 1:2  
  Above has an aspect ratio of 1:2  
  aspect ratio 1:2.5  
  Above has an aspect ratio of 2:5 or also referred to as 1:2.5  
  aspect ratio 1:3  
  Above has an aspect ratio of 1:3  
  aspect ratio 1:4  
  Above has an aspect ratio of 1:4  
  How to make a panoramic image  

Panoramic images can be created in a number of different ways. There are a lot of new tools to make panoramic images. The first panoramic camera was created in 1843 and used a hand crank to rotate the lens across a wide view and captured the image on a large photographic plate. Panoramic views got wider as people began to put plates together. We still use similar concepts to create panoramas but we have much better equipment. There are panoramic settings on almost all new cameras these days. There are also several different stitching programs that allow you to create a panoramic image from several individual images placed side by side. The principle is to shot the frames in sequence overlapping each frame slightly and standing in a stationary position when shooting or using a tripod.

Whether you shoot the image as a panoramic in the camera or you create it on your computer the final results are often breathtaking wide views that would normally only be seen with the naked eye not through a lens. It's the feeling of being there rather than viewing a picture that makes panoramas such a popular print choice.

  Downtown Philadelphia  
  Panoramic of Downtown Philadelphia circa 1913  

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