What is Panoramic Photography?

Today, the average person learns about "panoramas" from a setting on their phone's Camera app. But what is panoramic photography, and how did it come to exist? Below, we've outlined the history and practical applications for panoramas. 

What is panoramic photography?

Using a special camera feature or editing software, photographers can capture long horizontal shots that are perfect for epic landscapes. Also known as wide format photography, the panoramic style looks similar to a widescreen movie. Generally, a panoramic photo has an aspect ratio of at least 2:1, with a field of view that can exceed a human's eyes (around 160º by 75º). The field of view can be much larger, though, and may even cover a full 360º.  

Who developed the panorama? 

Before the invention of photography, painters in Pompeii used the panoramic concept to create widescreen murals of gorgeous vistas. This style continued to influence painters until the 19th century, when photography pioneers like Daguerre began creating panoramic cameras. Panoramas had been extremely popular in that period, so engineers tried to outdo each other with their own panoramic camera designs, using curved plates and gears to create a more seamless exposure.   

How can I shoot a panoramic photo? 

Today, most consumer-level cameras and phones come with a special "panorama" mode. This allows you to see a live view of the entire panorama as you scan across the landscape, so you can line up the camera properly and avoid inconsistencies. Your camera will also maintain the same exposure settings throughout the shot. Smartphones make the panoramic process even easier by showing an arrow on the screen, and then guiding the photographer to raise or lower their phone so that the image stays level. 

High-end SLR cameras will typically have panoramic settings as well, and when they don't, you can use computer software like PTGui or Kolor to get the job done. Finally, most people don't realize that panoramas can also be vertical! If you want to capture an awe-inspiring waterfall or skyscraper, try changing your camera to a horizontal orientation and then shooting the panorama (or, just tilt the camera). 

Need images for your project? Shutterstock’s impressive collection of more than 70 million images can help! See what our library has to offer.

  • Was this article helpful?

Can’t find what you’re looking for?