Creating a panorama from multiple images is no longer the arduous, drawn out tweak-fest it used to be. If you’ve got access to professional software like Photoshop or even basic freebies like Windows Photo Gallery then creating a panorama never takes more than a few clicks.
Microsoft Photosynth is technology you’ve probably seen before, as it kicked up quite a storm when the company announced it. Taking multiple photos of differing size, orientation, quality and so on; Microsoft (with help from some clever chaps at the University of Washington) released a tool that could make a 3D panorama automatically.
The technology is called Photosynth, and it really has to be played with to be believed. Luckily iOS users (iPhone 3GS & 4, iPad 2 and iPod Touch 4G) can now create panoramas on the fly. You don’t need a tripod, existing images or money – the iPhone panorama app is free and startlingly easy to use.
Creating A Masterpiece
Capturing the world around you in a 360-degree panorama is not as hard as it sounds, though there are a few things to remember in order to get the best results from Photosynth. The first screen you’ll see upon launching the app is your camera image and a “Tap to Start” message, and 3 tabs at the bottom of the screen.
The tab on the left takes you to your existing Photosynths, and the right hand tab allows you to connect sharing accounts and edit a few settings. One setting worth mentioning is Exposure Lock which will stop your camera adjusting for different light levels, delivering an evenly exposed shot (I’d recommend leaving it alone to begin with).
On the centre tab (a camera icon), tapping the screen will initiate a new panorama. Photosynth will start taking photos straight away, and as you move your camera around you will notice the program automatically building up a panoramic image of the scene.
It is important not to move from your starting position when you are creating your 360-degree image as this will cause inaccuracies within the panorama. If possible try to stand perfectly still and pivot your phone in its current position. This is undoubtedly the best method for capturing a panorama, and you’ll see what I mean once you’ve messed a few up.
As you pivot your phone new pictures will be added to the panorama. At times the green Photosynth capture box will turn yellow, and this indicates manual capture is required. At these points it is up to you to decide whether manual capture is going to add to or detract from the image. You can also overwrite existing photos by touching to take a new photo, or hit undo to remove your last shot. Each scene is different, but don’t forget to capture what’s above and below you!
When you think you’re finished, hit Done and the app will automatically stitch your images together for you. It can take about 5 minutes for a full 360-degree scene, not bad considering how long it would take by hand. A flat image of your panorama is also saved to the camera roll, like the one below.
Photosynthing All Over The World
So you’ve got your panorama, and it’s awesome. You can pan around by swiping on the screen, pinch to zoom and there’s an enticing Share button in the bottom left corner. Touching this will give you three options: share to Facebook, publish to Bing Maps and upload to Photosynth.net.
To share to Facebook you’ll need to link your account with Facebook Connect, and both Bing Maps and Photosynth.net upload options require a Windows Live ID.
Here I’m going to upload to the Photosynth website as it’s probably the easiest way of viewing your panorama on a bigger screen, from anywhere on the web. After you’ve selected Upload To Photosynth.net hit Sign In Now. Enter your usual Live ID and choose a public display name before finalising your decision with Create then Upload.
To view the panorama on your PC sign in to Photosynth.net with your usual login. You’ll be taken to the My Photosynths area where you can select your newly uploaded creation (here’s mine). You’ll need Microsoft Silverlight to view, though on my Ubuntu laptop the open source alternative Moonlight worked a treat.
From the Photosynth website you can also explore the community’s creations, and this can be time consuming as there’s so many great scenes on there. I wouldn’t recommend browsing the website if you have work to do, put it that way.
Photosynth is currently only available for iOS, so if you’ve got a supported device you’re one of the lucky few. There is currently no evidence of an Android version in development, though we can always hope.
- Microsoft Photosynth (iOS 4.0+ required) @ AppStore
I absolutely love Photosynth. Not only is it free, but it’s one of the most fun photography apps out there today. I’ve been using the app for weeks now and don’t remember a single crash, stitching is quick and the ability to quickly upload and share rocks. Not every panorama will turn out perfect but the more you practice the better they’ll get.
I’m struggling to find a reason not to recommend this iPhone panorama app to everyone with an iPhone. Download it. Do it now.
Have you played with Photosynth? Any awesome panoramas you want to share? Show us and discuss this top app in the comments below.