Here's a frustrating situation nearly every photographer has experienced: finding the perfect scene for a photo but not being able to fit it all into shot. If that sounds familiar, our walkthrough will be right up your street.
By taking lots of photos, each covering a part of the scene, then stitching them together, you can create a ‘mosaic' of the whole thing. This is an extension to the well-known method of shooting panoramas but with one important difference: a panorama is wide, but it's not particularly tall - you take a row of photos and stitch them together side by side.
In a mosaic, you capture a scene that's both wider and taller than one shot allows by moving the camera up and down as well as left and right.
We'll look at two methods of a mosaic. One approach is to do the job manually with a photo-editing suite; the other is to use software to create a mosaic automatically. For the latter, we've chosen AutoStitch, not least because it's free. It's also a powerful piece of software that's been used in commercial applications. Note that AutoStitch doesn't install the way most apps do, and it won't appear in the Start menu. You simply execute the downloaded file each time you want to run it.
Using AutoStitch is the easiest way to produce a mosaic, but doing the job manually tends to be more satisfying, while giving you an appreciation of what automated tools do behind the scenes. More importantly, it allows you to fine-tune odd perspectives and angles.
Another advantage of DIY mosaics is the opportunity they give you to get artistic. For example, you might want to make a feature of the fact that the montage is made up of lots of smaller pictures.
We've used Corel's Photo-Paint X3 photo editor (this is bundled with the CorelDraw X3 suite), but you can use any package that supports multiple objects. This includes most consumer photo editors, but not Windows Paint.
Consider a suitable resolution and megapixel count before you begin. A higher resolution will enable you to print off an attractive montage, but you'll need plenty of RAM.
Create a mosaic by hand
1. Choose a suitable scene for your mosaic. Avoid moving objects such as people or traffic. You've probably seen some odd effects on Google Street View - if a person is in two or more shots they'll appear more than once in the mosaic. Also try to ensure the lighting is similar for each shot.
2. Now take plenty of shots of your chosen scene; you won't be able to fill in any gaps later. Work systematically - perhaps work from top left to bottom right, row by row, to cover the entire scene. AutoStitch needs plenty of overlap between adjacent shots to match them up. Aim to provide at least a 30 percent overlap.