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Frequently Asked Questions Page Two

The following was prepared as an article for publication and is presented here as it answers most common questions and provides guidance on creating your own backscene.

Creating a Photographic Backscene

Know your Camera

The majority of modern digital cameras have inbuilt automated functions designed to help you to take the “perfect” picture. When taking photographs for a backscene, many of these features are not just unhelpful, they can ruin a photo shoot. Each picture you take will create between 8 and 15 inches of backscene. The images should overlap by 20% to 30% to aid in stitching them together. If your aim is to create a 20 foot backscene you may need to take up to thirty photographs so it is vital that the images are as consistent as possible.

The autofocus present on most camera samples the image in eight or more places to determine the “optimal” focus. If there is a wall, fence or tree positioned close to you, the camera may decide that this is the primary subject and focus on this feature rather than on the more distant parts of the image that you hope to use in your backscene. Setting the camera to Landscape mode or to Manual with infinity focus is best for scenery and most backscenes.

Automatic exposure can lead to marked variations in brightness between shots. Whilst this can be rectified when using specialist software to create a panorama, it is better to select an exposure setting that produces a good result and then apply the same setting to every shot.

Most cameras output the images in JPEG compressed format. Whilst this may be satisfactory there is often a loss of quality between the image taken and the image you output. If your camera can be set to produce the images in TIFF or RAW format the results will almost always be better but the files will be a lot larger. You will need to check that your memory card has the capacity to hold all the photographs that you may take. If not, make sure you have a spare card with you. It is important to experiment with your camera to determine the best settings as just one poor shot could ruin your photo shoot.

Planning the Shoot

The ideal photo shoot is completed in a very short time so that the clouds do not move very much and the light remains constant. This requires planning and preparation. Whenever possible, each frame should be taken square on to the scene using a tripod to avoid camera shake. We were very lucky when shooting a Distribution Depot and a Retail Park that flat level paths were located an ideal distance from the subjects. It is more likely that you will have to traverse uneven ground and will need to determine the best spots from which to take your photographs.

It is sometimes possible to photograph from a single location when taking long distance scenery shoots. The use of a tripod is even more important on such shoots as the natural tendency with a hand held camera is to raise the camera slightly towards the middle of the shoot and then lower towards the end creating an arc of images rather than a horizontal line.

This is one of the reasons for always taking shots in portrait as it allows for room to crop the top or bottom of any wayward images. The sun is a key factor in the photo shoot and not just for the time of day. If the sun is too bright it can lead to too much contrast and the creation of deep shadows that mask important features. A bright but hazy sun positioned above or behind you is usually best so keep an eye on the weather and make sure you pick the right time of day.

With good planning and the right conditions the photo shoot can be completed in less than an hour so, whilst you are there, do it again. A second set of photographs is good insurance and could save you another trip out. My late colleague Tony used to take a quick photo of his feet between shoots to help identify the sets.

Processing the Backscene

You will need at least a programme such as Photoshop to process the images into a panorama and then make adjustments. We use specialist software to create the panorama as the programme not only stitches the images together but it equalises the exposure, straightens leaning images and blends the images to create a seamless single panoramic image.

Try to avoid the temptation to reduce the size of your images during processing as you cannot regain lost image quality. We always work at 300 dpi or higher even if this means frequent tea breaks whilst the computer is processing. Patience is definitely a virtue when processing a backscene.

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