Feature Image by: Graeme Campbell | @eyeofgraeme

How to shoot Astro-Panorama Photography

An Astrophotography-Panorama is a great way to get more of the night sky into your photos and give a unique new perspective to a scene. It can allow you to get a wider image than possible with a single frame.

Steps

 

Gear

When shooting an Astrophotography-Panorama you can use any camera with decent low-light capabilities. Having a full-frame sensor is not as important as when you are shooting non-panorama Astro photography, because each individual frame will be smaller, meaning that grain won’t be as obvious.

When shooting an astrophotography-Panorama, you want to use a lens with a narrower focal length than a normal astrophotography, such as a 35mm or a 50mm. This is because the longer the focal length of your lens, the higher the resolution your panorama will be. Canon has plenty of lenses that are ideal for shooting astrophotography-panoramas including the EF 35mm F/1.4 II, EF 50mm F/1.8 STM, and EFS 24mm F/2.8 STM.

It is essential that you have a sturdy tripod when shooting astrophotography-panoramas. This is because you want to hold your camera as still as possible to avoid blurring your stars. For panoramas, it is beneficial for your tripod to have a panorama head. This is because it makes it easier to rotate your camera without adjusting the ball head. Panorama heads typically have the degrees marked on the base of the head so that you can be consistent with how much you rotate the camera. This helps when it comes to stitching your individual photos. It is handy to have an L-bracket to mount your camera to your tripod. An L-bracket is useful as it allows you to rotate your tripod with your camera in the centre of the ball head. This makes it easier for your stitching software.

Shooting

The easiest time to shoot an Astrophotography Panorama is towards the end of the Milky Way season when the Milky Way sits horizontal and low to the horizon. In New Zealand, the Milky Way is visible from February to October so the best time for an Astrophotography Panorama is from July to October. This is the best time because as the Milky Way is close to the horizon, you won’t need to take as many photos to capture the whole arch of the Milky Way.

When shooting a panorama (whether it is Astro or not), you want to have plenty of overlap between your photos. This is so that the stitching software can easily stitch the individual frames together. When rotating your camera, you want to rotate it around 15 degrees between each photo or about 1/3 of the frame.

Make sure that your tripod is levelled before you start your panorama. This is because if your tripod is not level, your image will be uneven and it will be hard to stitch. Mount your camera to the tripod in the portrait orientation and point it in the direction that you want to start your panorama. Set your camera to manual and dial in your settings. These settings are the same as if you were shooting a single Astro photo. You can read about the settings for Astrophotography here. It’s best to use manual so that your settings are consistent for each individual frame. Make sure you leave space above the Milky Way when you frame your shot so that the Milky Way arch isn’t cropped in your final photo. Take the first photo then rotate your camera 15 degrees. Continue this until you reach the end of where you want your panorama to be. You can shoot multiple rows of photos but this can be difficult for simple panorama programs, such as Lightroom, to stitch so you might need to purchase a more complex software such as Photoshop or PT GUI.

Astro photography stars

Stitching

For this tutorial, we’ll be using Lightroom, but many of the concepts are the same. Once you have taken your photos, import them into your Lightroom catalogue. Open the develop section of Lightroom and click on the first image of your then find your final image, hold down shift and click on it. This will select every image you want to have in the panorama. If there is a single image you want to deselect without deselecting the whole lot, you can hold control on Windows or Command(⌘) on Mac and click on that image. Make sure that profile corrections are turned on for each image. With your images selected, right-click one of the images and select photo merge, then select panorama. You can then choose between Cylindrical or Spherical projections, whichever makes your image look the best. Finally, you can merge your panorama and make any edits to the image.

Astro photography stitched
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