How to make and sell panoramas with compact cameras
January 26, 2021
Your guide: Derek Braid
Derek lives in the coastal town of North Berwick, about 25 miles east of Edinburgh. He first started photography in his school darkroom, where the thrill of seeing images appear in the development tray inspired him. He now carries his compact cameras whenever he is out walking his dog Sparky. Visit his website for more
Since going digital in 2000, I have ditched my SLRs in favour of the humble compact camera. My passion is panoramic photography and some 20 years ago, I was intrigued to see what results I could get. Stitching individual photographs to make a panorama meant plenty of pixels, even from early digital compacts. The introduction of Panoramic Assist mode on some models made things easier, with the ghost of the previous image showing in the viewfinder and ensuring a suitable overlap and alignment between frames.
In cameras without it, I used a QTOP panoramic tripod head (www.qtop.eu). Inside the camera shoe are indentations at 30º intervals. By slight depression of the shutter release button, the camera can be rotated to allow stitching of composite panoramic photographs. There’s a bull’s-eye spirit level built into the base as well. In 2009 Sony introduced the HX1 bridge camera, with a Sweep Panorama mode that stitches panoramas together as you shoot. This made handheld panoramas possible, and I was pleased to dispense with my tripod.
However, the height of the resulting panoramas was only 1,080 pixels, which limited the quality of the final product, especially in low-light conditions. When printing on canvas, with its texture, it was still possible to produce attractive 40in wide wraps. Then in 2010 Sony introduced the NEX3 camera which included Sweep Panorama with an image height of 1,856 pixels, and this improved the quality of the canvas wraps, even in low-light conditions.
Although this was a great all-round camera, the mechanical shutter in Sweep Panorama, automatically taking repetitive images, was noisy. Then Sony scored again by introducing the RX100 top-end compact with the higher 1,856-pixel height. I am now on my fourth RX100 having owned and used the M1, M2, M3 and the M6, which I have just bought.
Apart from using the Sweep Panorama mode to take panoramic pictures, it has a large 24-200mm lens, which makes it a great carry-everywhere camera. Using my Olympus Stylus 1s camera,I still take individual shots to be stitched together using Panorama Merge in Lightroom. In fact, this can be the only solution to taking moving subjects in a panorama provided that you do not have the moving subject crossing over adjacent frames. The Stylus 1s has a Panorama mode to help get the right amount of overlap and alignment. It also freezes the exposure setting throughout the sequence of shots. Producing photos at over 3,000 pixels in height, this gives plenty scope for cropping.
Making cash from compacts
After taking early retirement from my job as an IT manager, I started selling framed pictures, canvas wraps and later submitted photographs to Alamy. I did get my work accepted by local galleries and tourist attractions, but one gallery owner said photographs do not sell. There is some truth in that statement, but I had a number of outlets for my work and sales were reasonable.
Once you have passed an initial assessment of three images, it is then simply a process of identifying further high-quality images for submission to Alamy. Upload them using Alamy Image Manager, or if you’re a Lightroom user, you can use the Alamy-Lightroom Bridge plug-in. The uploaded images are assessed for quality, not image content, and pass through a quality control process. Within a day or so, you receive an email to say whether your images have passed. If any pictures do not pass, the whole batch fails.
If you have passed, you can use the Alamy Image Manager to update each image with extra information. This includes a caption, licence type, primary and secondary category, location, super tags and tags, shows people and shows property and whether you have model and property releases. This can also be done using the Alamy-Lightroom Bridge Plug-In, where you update the details on Lightroom and then upload the details.
Once all the correct data is added to an image, it then goes on sale. One thing to bear in mind is that Alamy now has over 225 million images available online, so to make a reasonable income you need to be prolific and have a large number of images submitted and ensure that they are all well captioned and tagged so that your images are found by buyers. I’ve recently sold three panoramic images on Alamy, all of a shopping mall on the outskirts of Edinburgh (above).
How to make perfect panoramas