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Getting the shot – Dublin Quays Panorama on iPhone

I’m often asked – how did you get that shot, so this is the first post in a series called “Getting the shot” where I will post a photo and then discuss the process of seeing, taking and processing it to a final image. I welcome comments and critique, so feel free to have your say!

Dublin Quays panorama – cropped version processed with SnapSeed

This image was taken on a night photo walk around Dublin’s Bord Gais Theatre and the south side of Dublin Quays earlier this week, and for this shot, rather than using my Nikon DSLR, I thought I would see what I could get using my iPhone 4.  Low light poses a problem for the tiny lens and sensor on phone cameras in terms of getting quite grainy looking images, but nothing ventured…

Pre-visualization is a photographic technique which basically means having an idea in your mind’s eye of what you want your final image to look like.  With a panorama shot, especially such a wide one as this, the image you end up with is actually quite different from any single view your eyes see, as to capture the 7 shots which make up this 1 image I had to rotate from left to right 180°.  I wanted to get some sky, the buildings and also almost an equal depth of reflections, so for this set of shots I turned the iPhone portrait mode – so the individual shots were taller than wide.

The app I used for this composition is AutoStitch, but there are other good iPhone panorama apps which will do a similar job – Dermendar is one I reviewed here, and Microsoft have their PhotoSynth app which is also very good.

The reason I used AutoStitch is that it allows you to set quite high resolution settings for both the images, the blending process and the final output panorama – it can save a single panorama shot of up to 18Mb which makes for quite a large image.  As you start to take your shots, and move round to the next position, you can see a ghostly image of the edge of your last shot which makes lining things up much easier.

Tip – always go into the settings of any photo app and set everything to the highest/best possible settings – anything less and you are really compromising the already limited abilities of the camera lens & sensor to deliver clean images.  

There are many tripod mounts available for iPhones these days, but for these shots I was just standing very still and hand-holding – a bit crazy at 9pm with the light going fast, but hey – it was an experiment to see what I could get.  Gotta have fun with your photography, and trying out stuff to see if it might work is all part of that.

So I took my 7 shots, then pressed the button to set AutoStitch to aligning and stitching the initial panorama together.  Once this is done (which took about 10 minutes with the top quality settings and 7 shots to process) you end up with a raggedy looking wide panorama which you then need to crop to get a clean rectangle.  AutoStitch automatically offers you the biggest crop area it can and generally I just accept that to lose the raggedy bits.  Here’s the shot at this point of my process – note the quaysides showing at both edges of the shot showing that this is a full 180° panorama.

Dublin Quays panorama – initial version before additional cropping

Now, for many shots this is job done, but being an inveterate tinkerer I like to run photos through some post-processing just to see if things might be improved at all.  This can of course be done on the iPhone screen, but I will generally wait until my photos have synced onto my iPad at home and then do editing on the much bigger iPad screen.  My app of choice these days for most photo editing on the iPad is SnapSeed by Nik Software – it is simply superb, and quite the most powerful and easy to use photo editor I have yet tried – and I’ve tried pretty much everything out there!  In the image version below I’ve applied a bit of selective brightening to the very dark building 2nd in from the right, and also applied a touch of “structure” from the detail menu in SnapSeed, which also brightened the sky up a touch.

I actually quite like the initial version’s composition as I think that the composition lines of the quayside at each edge of the shot work in taking your eye out to the other side of the river and the lit buildings.  Penny, my wife suggested I try a crop to lose the quaysides and focus more on the lit buildings and reflections, which is shown below.

Which do you like better, and why? – please do post a comment and let me know :).

Dublin Quays panorama – cropped version with SnapSeed processing


About Joe Houghton

As a self confessed gadget and app lover, here are my personal musings and thoughts on useful, interesting or maybe just odd technology which caught my eye...


4 thoughts on “Getting the shot – Dublin Quays Panorama on iPhone

  1. Excellent photo and very interesting information on how it was done.

    Posted by Maureen | September 5, 2012, 7:17 pm
  2. That’s about the best picture I’ve ever seen taken on an i-phone! Thanks for sharing your tips!

    Posted by Kathi | September 24, 2012, 12:10 pm
  3. Oh, I forgot to add that I agree with your wife. I like the shot without the quayside at each edge, although I stand and applause your creativity either way! You remind me of my older brother, who is also a great photographer!

    Posted by Kathi | September 24, 2012, 12:16 pm

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