Photo Effects In-Camera or Digital Darkroom–It’s Your Choice

Modern cameras offer many options to manipulate images as they are taken. These include night vision, high dynamic range or HDR, selective color, photo illustration and others that adjust the image to create a particular effect. It is fun to experiment with these and you may like the results. But most of these effects can be created in the digital darkroom. Photoshop, Lightroom and other programs give you more control to manipulate the image to your own taste rather than leaving it to the camera. So experiment either in camera or in the computer to get a feel for what you like.

Panorama Is a Most Useful Tool

One effect that goes beyond being a digital toy and significantly helps in the creation of compelling images is Panorama. Most cameras offer some type of panorama option and the methods vary. There are two basic approaches—one lets you pan the camera which joins pieces of the panned image together into a continuous panorama. The other approach lets you frame two or more overlapping images and the camera stitches them together into a panorama or saves them to be joined later in computer software.

Panning the Camera Is One Common Approach


Street panorama taken by panning the camera from left to right.




The pan approach is easier and gives immediate feedback. The down side is that panning creates a curved effect in the image. Also, the final image is smaller in size than a still frame shot with the same camera. And there can be artifacts resulting from the pan, especially of something moves in the frame.

Combining Multiple Images Is a Better Method

Vernazza, Italy

Night panorama of Vernazza, Italy made of two overlapping images stitched together.

Stitching multiple images together is the better method. It retains the image quality of the individual frames. Distortion can be kept to a minimum. And full camera control is available for creation of the overlapping frames. This can be important for low light night and cityscape panoramas.

Accurate Alignment Is Important

Achieving an accurate overlap of the individual frames is important. Some cameras help with this by displaying a partial image of the previous photo in the monitor to help with alignment of the next shot. But with care, any digital camera can create overlapping panorama frames. The best method is to use a tripod or alternative stabilization device like HandlePod . Simply rotate the camera so that about one quarter of the next shot overlaps the previous shot.

There are many programs that can stitch overlapping images together into a panorama. One very common and simple to use software is Photoshop Elements. In the top menu, go to Enhance then Photomerge and select Panorama. Load the images you want to merge, select the stitching method and hit OK.

When your widest lens isn’t enough to take in the whole scene, panorama is the way to go. Whether it is done in camera or in the computer is your choice. But the results are well worth it.

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