How to Take Better Panoramic Photos with Your iPhone

If you want a wide angle photo of some sweeping vista, you used to only have two options: buy an expensive camera with a wide angle lens, or take a series of photos and stitch them together with software. But these days, the iPhone’s camera makes panoramic photos a cinch.

Panoramic photos can capture a much wider view than a simple wide angle lens, and it’s usually much easier to get good results than it is stitching multiple photos together. That said, it still takes some practice. You’re not likely to get that perfect panorama on the first attempt. It might take several tries to get it exactly the way you want.

Today we want to give you some helpful tips and pointers on how to take panoramic photos with your iPhone. Hopefully, by the time you’re done reading, you’ll know exactly how to get the shots you want.

First things first: to get a great panoramic shot, you need to take your time. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go really slowly, but you should make sure that you hold your iPhone steady and you move in a nice, smooth, even motion.

To begin, first start the camera app on your iPhone and then tap “Pano” at the bottom. It will be the last option on the right.

The Panorama shot on the iPhone will display an arrow situated on a flat line. This line is right about where we want the center of our shot to be. You need to start from the left edge of your intended frame and move right, so make sure you set up your shot beginning to the left and figure out where you want to end it on the right. It’s okay if the edges aren’t perfect, you can always go back and crop it.

When you’re ready to begin your shot, press the round shutter button.

Holding the iPhone level while you shoot is critical. That arrow is your guide and you need to try to keep the point of it on the line as well as you can. Move up or down too much and you’ll notice the arrow moves from its line of axis. This is why it’s best to move in a smooth motion, not too slow where you’ll end up moving the camera too far up or down, but not too fast either where you won’t have time to make adjustments.

You can end your shot at any time by tapping the shutter button again.

Our shot has deviated too far down and will end having a perceptible dip in it.

In the following example, we see what happens if we move the camera off center too jerkily. At the far right of the picture there is severe screen tearing and the shot looks downright terrible. If you move too far off center, the camera will automatically abort the shot and you will need to start over.

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In this shot, we’ve managed to smooth things out considerably, but if you look at the areas in red, you see that areas on the pier as well the ocean horizon have dips and bumps. Also, the shot just isn’t straight, the finished product slants noticeably down to the right.

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Click the image for a larger view.

In the following example however, things are much better. There are no discernible gaps or bumps, the shot is level, smooth, and almost flawless. No, it isn’t perfect. Blown up to its full size you can make out imperfections, but enlarging it to such an extent defeats the purpose of a panorama.

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Click the image for a larger view.

With any kind of photography, if you’re not trying to get that one-in-a-million shot, then you should always take several. This is especially true with specialty shots like panoramas, because although your iPhone has that fantastic Retina display, it’s all but impossible to judge how the shot came out on such a small screen. Moreover, as with our beach shots, we’re in a brightly lit scene, which is going to make it even harder.

So, remember these simple tips when taking panoramas and you’ll end up with shots that you can amaze your family and wow your friends.

  • Start at the left edge of your frame since you’ll be moving right.
  • Move the camera in a smooth, straight, even motion.
  • Don’t go so fast that the shot is blurred, but so slow that you can’t hold the camera steady and straight.
  • Make several attempts, don’t just take one shot.
  • If the edges aren’t perfect, you can crop those bits out.
  • Keep in mind, the wider your shot, the more curved it will appear. If your panorama is narrower, there will be less curved distortion.

If you’re really keen on getting the best panoramic shot every time, you consider investing in a tripod. You can find a wide variety of iPhone tripods for sale on Amazon for around $15 to $30. Not only will a tripod help keep your iPhone level during panoramas, but it will more than pay for itself in the long run with other types of photos.

Matt Klein is an aspiring Florida beach bum, displaced honorary Texan, and dyed-in-wool Ohio State Buckeye, who fancies himself a nerd-of-all-trades. His favorite topics might include operating systems, BBQ, roller skating, and trying to figure out how to explain quantum computers.