How to Make your Phone Photos Wider – or Taller.

Is your camera field of view not wide enough to capture the splendor of the scene in front of you? Can’t get all of that church or tower into your photo? Fear not, panorama mode to the rescue! Most people think you can only do a horizontal panorama, but you can also do a vertical pano (e.g. to capture a tall building).  Check out the quick examples to the right and further below, taken in my office (not the most photogenic subject!)

Pan-o-rama

A panorama is, strictly speaking, “a picture or photograph containing a wide view”, but for our purposes, think of it as your camera being able to stretch the image wider (or taller) than a single, typical shot.  It does this by combining multiple overlapping photos to create one uber-image with the greater field of view.  In the past, to make one you needed multiple photos, expertise, expensive software, and patience.  Today you just need your phone and your finger.

Panoramas are one of my favorite types of photo to take when traveling.  Often scenic spots are scenic because the view is so expansive, something your normal camera can’t capture.  In such cases a panorama photo is your best bet.  Panoramas are also great for header images, like the ones on this blog.

The way that iPhones and Android create panoramas is similar, but a bit different.  Also, this is an area where the native iPhone app doesn’t have as  much flexibility as Android.  Check out panorama apps on your app store if you want to do more than the native app allows.

Also, note that you can only move in one axis (horizontally or vertically), you can’t pan across then move up or down.  In fact in order to get a good result, you need to be sure to keep the movement on a straight line – the app will generally prompt you if you start to wander off course.  Always check the resultant image after you take it – sometimes the results are not what you expected.

iPhone

If you are using an iPhone, just put the camera in panorama mode and rotate it horizontally as you shoot (see video below from WordOfTech).  The native iPhone app requires you to have your phone in vertical (portrait) mode as you rotate horizontally, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it increases the vertical area of coverage as you pan horizontally.

Want to shoot a vertical pano?  Turn your phone sideways and pan upwards.  See iPhone vertical panorama if you need detailed instructions.

Android

On Android (using the Samsung Galaxy series as an the example), you also need to switch to panorama mode, but you can have your camera in either portrait (vertical) or landscape (horizontal) mode.  By default, the prompt will point you to move horizontally, but if you move vertically instead, the arrow will change axis.  Neat!

A Few Final Notes

As you can see on the images, there is some distortion, for example on the vertical pano my parallel vertical bookshelf ends look like barrel staves.  This is in fact called barrel distortion and it happens with wide angle lenses.  In a pano, that effect can be magnified.   For images of a landscape, you may not notice the distortion as much.  However when you know that lines should be parallel (e.g. the sides of my bookshelf, or of a church tower), it may be more off-putting.  The best you can do in-camera is to make the panorama no wider (or taller) than it needs to be.  If the distortion bothers you and you have access to a photo editor like Photoshop, you can correct it. See  How to correct barrel distortion in Photoshop.

Another thing to keep in mind is that because the resultant image is effectively a conglomeration of multiple images, your file size will be larger (often much larger) than your usual photos, and it will take up correspondingly more storage space.

So, aimed with your new knowledge, what will be your first panorama image?

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