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Digital Photography Hacks
By Derrick Story
May 2004
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Get the Big Picture with a Little Camera Phone
If a scene is just too big to fit in your little camera phone, shoot a series of images and stitch them together
[Discuss (1) | Link to this hack]

Have you ever photographed a breathtaking landscape or something extremely tall, such as a giant redwood or skyscraper, only to feel a little disappointed when looking at the image on the computer screen? The scale of the scene didn't survive the translation to the computer.

One reason is that the conventional camera has a monocular field of view, which is much smaller than the stereoscopic field of view that our two eyes provide. This issue is compounded by the camera phone's generally low resolution (sub-megapixel) and narrow depth of field; objects are not sharp, except for a narrow range of distance from the camera. You also might not be able to back up far enough to get a large vista or object entirely in a single frame.

One way to solve this problem is to photograph the scene or object in segments and then assemble the pieces into a single large image. The technique, called a panorama , is pretty simple. shows three pictures stitched together into one.

Figure 1. A panorama created from three camera-phone images

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you're creating these types of images:

I'll now walk you through the basic steps of creating a panorama with your camera phone. First, take your series of shots, working left to right and overlapping by 30%. Upload the pictures to your computer. Open the images in your stitching program, as shown in .

Figure 2. A series of shots in Canon's PhotoStitch application

Now, merge the images together, as shown in . If you give the stitching application enough visual information to work with, it will do an amazing job of creating a seamless panorama.

Figure 3. Photos being merged together

Once the application works its magic, you have a much broader view. Crop out the rough edges, as shown in .

Figure 4. Cleaning up after the merge

A bonus of using this technique is that you've also added resolution to your landscape, which enables you to make a bigger print than you'd be able to make of a single 640 480 picture. You don't have to be limited to small prints or narrowly composed scenes with your camera phone. Just remember to gather all the parts while you're taking the pictures. Then, pull things together later on the computer. It's that easy.

Todd Ogasawara

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