From Pano to Print
Panos are best in print
In our last series of posts about medium format, we received some comments and some personal emails from within our community about the effect of MF on panoramas. So, I'll sidetrack a bit to open a discussion on the topic.
Panos can be one of the most satisfying fine art print modalities... or the most frustrating. There are four distinct aspects to creating a large, dramatic pano print.
I'll make a couple of assumptions here. First, I'm referring to multi-shot panos, not single, typically cropped shots. Second, I'm talking about tripod-mounted panos, not hand-held. I only shoot panos from a tripod because of the size we end up printing them.
I'm pretty exacting about my technique. I even have a protocol checklist that I carry on my iPhone. I find it extremely irritating when I've taken 40 images and realize that I did something stupid and have to reshoot. If you're curious about my technique, you can check out my video on the topic. In the video, I intentionally shot with a Nikon so as not to distract viewers with a strange-looking MF system. But you can also see the results of a pano taken from the same spot with my Fujifilm GFX 100 and 120mm macro lens.
The point here is that I find a well executed pano strategy makes everything that follows far easier. If there's enough interest in my pano setup checklist I'll publish it in a future newsletter. Just give a shout out in the comments.
I often take three or four rows and anywhere from 7 to 15 images per row. At 102MP per image, that's a lot to process.
The next step in the process is post-processing those images. You can start with batch processing for white balance, for example, or just stitch first and handle all the post changes once that's done.
A few comments about this stage of the process. If you have a high MP camera, you will probably need to be patient as the program you're using ingests and digests all that data. Given the number of high DPI RAW files I typically make, I often export them to the stitching program as small jpegs just to see if there are any stitching problems (and address them) before committing the time and effort to full size files.
Depending on the number of images, I may use Lightroom or PTGUI as my stitching program. There have been a few times when Bob has had to suck them into Photoshop, but we haven't found a way to predict which program will work best. I do most of my regular post-processing in Capture One and I can state unequivocally that their stitching program is not quite ready for prime time yet with large panos.
Panos in and of themselves are dynamic, assuming they are well shot. I find that some folks tend to overdo the clarity and contrast sliders and end up with an overly digitized image that can be artificial looking.
The third step in the process of creating a fine art print of your pano is the actual printing. Personally, I'm of the mind that panos should be printed B-I-G. I mean, what's the point of recording all those pixels and doing all the post work and then printing it on a 13 x 19 sheet of paper?
I love fine papers and when I print panos of course I'll print them on various mat or semigloss at 44" on the short side. What may surprise you is that my very largest of panoramic prints are on "not so fine art, not even paper". Those largest of large pano prints are on a coated vinyl wall paper that is more of a commercial grade material. Walls are naturally great pano presentations.
This method obviously consists of many strips of 36" or 44" wide components. I've found the best way they turn out is to have the strips contain a bit of overlap so that there is some leeway when installing them. The final edge match up is accomplished by overlapping the strips then slicing through both strips for a perfect image and a perfect fit.
If anyone dares such a task and wants more detail hit me up in the comments with questions. I have plenty of nightmares I can share and how I overcame them.
Assuming you didn't opt for the wallpaper option; the final stage in this process is choosing a display medium that complements your art. Most people will then opt for a fine art paper. To make best use of the image, you will need roll paper. Unless your image represents a single row, you'll probably want to use 24", 36" or 44" wide paper and that will probably result in a print at least four feet long.
Mounted on Gatorboard with a white border you would have a very nice print. Glue a standoff on the back of the Gatorboard and you add dimensionality and interest to the scene.
If you choose to mat the print, you will need to special order long mats that can accommodate that length and that is a pricey consideration. But a Gatorboard print with wide borders in a simple frame may not need to be matted to look good on your wall. Yet another option is to display the pano prints as triptychs, quadtychs (or more). Keep in mind that vertical panos are great for long, skinny walls.
Let us know how you approach panos and their printing and display. Would you like some how-to coverage of this topic? Leave a comment (we read every one!).
The extremely observant may have noticed a tiny change at the bottom of the newsletter. The small message above the subscribe button now reads “You’re a free subscriber to Paper Arts Collective Newsletter. For the full experience, become a paid subscriber.”. Nothing changes, we’ll continue to publish as we have and also plan to publish more. The newsletter is a labor of love and will continue to be. If you like and support what we do and have the means we’d absolutely appreciate a paid subscription to help “keep the lights on” as producing the newsletter has some significant costs for basic things like paper, ink, countless other materials, and of course the electric bill. In the future there will be a few “paid subscriber” bonuses we’ve been discussing such as more in-depth how-to articles, real-time focused discussion threads, and more so stay tuned.