We like to keep up with the latest in photography trends and techniques, so when we saw a recent gigapixel photo of Shanghai take the internet by storm, we just had to see what all the fuss was about!
So, what is a gigapixel photo, you may ask? Well, defined as ‘a digital image bitmap composed of one billion pixels, 1000 times the information captured by a 1-megapixel digital camera’, a gigapixel photo is something pretty special. With a level of detail almost unimaginable, these large-scale panoramic shots allow the viewer to zoom right in on detailed objects without losing any image quality.
To properly grasp gigapixel photography, you’ve got to experience it, which is why we’ve brought together our three favourite examples for you to look through. Be warned – you can easily spend hours and hours going through each photo with a fine-tooth comb, there’s just so much to see!
Photographer Jeffrey Martin of boingboing.net shot a breathtaking gigapixel image of Paris from the very top of the Eiffel Tower. To do so, he used an SLR camera with an assortment of telephoto lenses, shooting thousands of photos from two different viewpoints. Watch the video below for a preview of the stunning photo or experience it for yourself here.
This incredible shot of Las Vegas was captured by Bill Bailey from the 61st floor of the Cosmopolitan Hotel. See the full photo here and try zooming in to sights such as the world famous Caesar’s Palace, the fountains at the Bellagio and, of course, the Eiffel Tower at Paris Las Vegas. You can even see individual people walking along the strip and bathing in their hotel pools! Can you spot any funny sights?
If you’ve always fancied visiting the ruins of Machu Picchu but have never quite made it there, this gigapixel photo really is the next best thing. Taken by Jeff Cremer, this in-depth image allows you to explore every detail of one of the wonders of the world. Zoom right in to the ruins themselves or take a peek at the surrounding Peruvian landscape for a sense of scale. View the full image here.
How to create your own Gigapixel Photo
It’s no mean feat creating your own gigapixel photo, so be prepared for a hefty challenge! The good news is that the equipment needed is accessible (you may already have what’s needed if you’re a keen photographer) but you will need to take a good amount of time and have great attention to detail to pull together your final image. We think the end result makes it all worthwhile, though!
We’re no experts on gigapixel photography ourselves, which is why we turned to photographer Ben Pitt for this handy guide that walks you through his step-by-step method of creating this incredible image of San Francisco, California. We’ve summarised the main points for you below.
Choose Your Location
First and foremost, decide on where you’d like to capture your gigapixel photo. Built-up cities are popular as there’s so much going on in every area, but if you’re starting out it might be easier to choose a location with fewer moving subjects in order to make editing the final image less troublesome.
Gather Your Equipment
As mentioned, you may already own some or all of what you’ll need for the shoot. Many gigapixel photographers opt for a DSLR camera and a long telephoto lens with a good focal length (400mm+) in order to capture those faraway objects with precision. You’ll also need a mount for the camera – you could opt for a normal tripod or go a bit higher-tech and use a robotic camera mount such as this one from Gigapan, which will take a lot of the hard work out for you. Of course, the price tag does reflect this!
Head to your preferred vantage point, set up your equipment and snap away. The best way to tackle a gigapixel photo is by photographing in either columns or rows, and Ben recommends aiming for a 30% overlap on each image to make stitching easier when you come to edit them all together. Just zig-zag across the scene until you’ve covered all areas – don’t be afraid to take too many photos!
Stitch Your Images Together
Now comes the tricky part. Ben recommends using free Windows software Microsoft ICE to produce the final image, but you can also use Photoshop or your preferred image editor to do so. If you opt for an automatic photo stitcher like ICE, you can simply upload all of your images and let the software do its work. This is pretty time consuming, but saves you a lot of effort.
You’ll likely need to edit the result in Photoshop – you may need to sharpen certain areas or manually stitch multiple images together. This is also the best software to use for saving the final version – the file is going to be rather large, and many gigapixel photographers believe a PSB (Photoshop Big) file is the best format to keep as much quality as possible.
Enjoy the Result!
Once you’ve produced your final image, all that remains is to share it with the world! There are plenty of gigapixel photography sites such as Gigapan and 360gigapixels for you to upload your creation to, and of course, you can always admire your work up close and personal by creating a panoramic gallery print that will really show your work off to perfection.