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Ever since I got my first digital camera I was trying to create panoramic photos. This means take multiple shots of the view around me and then stitch them together into one image to create a panorama.

At the time I used a tool called PTGui and below you can see couple attempts from that time.

Long Beach, CA

Harbor in Long Beach, CA (3 photos)


Castle near Vienna, Austria (2 photos)

This tool is still around, but nowadays we have some easier options. 

Windows Live Photo Gallery

If you use Windows Live Photo Gallery you probably already found out, that it has an option to create panoramic photos. Simply select all photos in your series and use menu option “Create panoramic photo”. Application doesn’t even ask you any further questions and immediately starts the conversion. When it’s done it will only ask you where to save the final image.

Here are the same shots stitched using this tool:



One of the problems with panoramic photos is that algorithm needs to figure out the correct projection so that your scene would have natural proportions all the way (this is similar problem as projection of Earth surface on maps in cartography). In my opinion even with default settings the photos from Windows Live Photo Gallery are much less deformed (especially on the sides) than the previous examples. I’m not saying that PTGui is a bad tool - probably you can get the same result with it if only you can figure out the correct settings.

Microsoft ICE

But there is another tool that you might not know about called Image Composite Editor (ICE) available from Microsoft Research. In fact it’s the same algorithm that is used in Windows Live but gives you some more control on the conversion process.


There are three groups of options that you can select:

  • Stitch – allows you to select type of camera motion used to create the shots. You have choice between 3 types of planar motion, and rotating motion, but most of the time you can leave it on Automatic.
  • Crop – while in WLPG you have to crop your images manually, here you can do it automatically or adjust the crop before saving the output image.
  • Export – the output image can be saved not only as a single bitmap image (JPEG, TIFF, BMP or PNG), but also as multi-resolution tiled formats like HD View and Silverlight Deep Zoom.

But the best feature is that you can preview your scene in 3D. And with enough photos you can even create a 360 degree view all around you. This view also allows you to adjust panorama’s center and curvature, and even change the type of projection from planar to cylindrical or spherical.


Tip: Notice that in above panorama not all photos are aligned on the same baseline. This is because I shot them quickly from free hand. To get best results always use a tripod and lock the camera to use the same settings for each shot in the series.

Deep Zoom Composer

Because panorama image consists of multiple high resolutions photos stitching them together will easily create some insane resolutions. Clearly putting such large files directly on your webpage isn’t the best option. Also scaling them down contradicts the point because you loose all the fine details. Here Silverlight DeepZoom comes to the rescue, and it’s very convenient that Microsoft ICE includes it as one of the export options.

But the same option was also added in recent versions of Deep Zoom composer. Add your photos in Compose mode, select all, right click on them, and select “Create panoramic photo”. Like in Windows Live Photo Gallery, you can’t adjust any parameters of the algorithm. Of course, you can combine benefits of both tools: first stitch your images in ICE and save it as high-resolution image, then import it to Deep Zoom Composer.


However, the main difference is that Deep Zoom Composer allows you to easily publish your panorama to PhotoZoom, or if you want to have more control you can host it yourself on Silverlight Live Streaming - simply follow the instructions in this tutorial.

Below you can see two panoramas that I created this way from photos shot last week on our vacations in Egypt (click image to open Silverlight page).


Beach at the Sharm Grand Plaza Hotel (8 photos)


Desert outside Sharm El Sheik (11 photos)

As you can see creating panoramic photos is quite easy nowadays with all the tools available to do the hard job for you. I hope that this encourages some of you to take some great shots on your next trip. And don’t hesitate to leave me link to your panorama in the comments.

Posted on Sunday, February 15, 2009 10:45 PM | Back to top

Comments on this post: Fun with panoramic photos

# re: Fun with panoramic photos
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Thanks for the overview. And thanks for the nice Panorama Images too.
Left by Silverlight Travel on Feb 16, 2009 7:07 AM

# re: Fun with panoramic photos
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Great find Szymon (the ICE tool particularly), been looking for a good, freebie "photostitch"-type app for a while.

Can you find a good, freebie HDR app in the labs as well :-)

Cheers, Thomas
Left by Thomas Williams on Feb 17, 2009 10:45 PM

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