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Create spectacular panoramas with Hugin

30 December 2011, Mike Williams

Blending multiple images of a scene into a single panorama is one of those tasks which might seem easy – at first, anyway. After all, if you could just align one image over another at a point where they share some common feature then that’s the job almost finished. Right?

If you’ve ever tried to do this manually, though, you’ll know the reality can be far more complex. There are barrel distortion, vignetting, and many other camera and lens issues to consider. And you’ll need to take account of variations in image exposure, alignment, and the list goes on. Although, of course, if this seems too much like hard work, then you could just get the open source Hugin application to handle everything for you.

This highly professional tool extracts information like your camera and lens type from image tags, helping it to produce more accurate work. You’re able to specify multiple “control points” – clearly defined points which are visible on more than one image – to further enhance the results. Hugin tweaks multiple image orientation and camera lens parameters to properly optimise your pictures, and it’ll fix exposure issues, centralise and straighten the finished results, too.

Combine multiple images into a single spectacular panorama

The interface for all this can appear a little intimidating, at least initially. The “Optimiser” tab alone has no less than 12 variables which can be tweaked, for instance: yaw, pitch, roll, x shift, y shift, and the list goes on. While the Exposure tab has variables for White Balance, Vignetting, Vignetting Centre, Camera Response and Exposure. Where should you start? We have absolutely no idea.

Fortunately there’s no need to worry about any of this, at first, as you can just accept the default settings and leave the program to handle most of the difficult work automatically (if also slowly: sluggish performance is probably Hugin’s only problem of note). It’s still a good idea to spend some time figuring out what the various tweaks do, as they can help to improve the final results, but the Hugin site has some online tutorials to assist here. And further guidance is available via the Hugin mailing list, should you need it.

It is worth investing the time, though, as Hugin really can produce some spectacular panoramas. And there’s no need to take our word for it: just browse Flickr for images tagged with “Hugin” and you’ll quickly get a feel for exactly what the program can do.

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