As more and more photographers are shooting backplates on location and subjects in the studio, I've found the best tool for the job isn't necessarily your lens or the camera but a specific tripod head that finds the no parallax point in your lens. This was by far our favorite purchase of 2013 here at RGG Photo.
The Problem With Traditional Tri-Pods
I've had some really great opportunities to create some panorama backplates only to have Photoshop completely destroy and warp the image I was trying to create. I realized this was due to my tripod and lens combination. The foreground elements were being moved too much in relation to background elements and Photoshop couldn't quite figure out the backplate I was trying to create without warping the entire image to an unusable state. In the above video I explain the benefits of using a tripod head specifically made for creating panoramas, especially of panoramas indoors in tight spots. These are invaluable tools if you want to maximize your time alone shooting backplates to then shoot models in the studio. This saves both time and money in production costs by not having to bring an entire crew and model on location.
Start By Making 32 Bit Tiffs
Furthermore in the video I highlight my preferred method to creating a backplate with the most dynamic range by building 32 Bit Tiffs to start with. This gives me the most range and elasticity to push my tones to where I want them and to create a photo that will give me a great starting point to work off of. You will notice that I used eight 32 Bit images to start with, processed the images to a good starting (personal preference), exported them as 16 Bit Tiffs, and then stitched them together using the auto feature is PS6 CC photomerge. This resulted in an image at 300 DPI that is 12322 pixels wide by 5899 pixels high, which is a great starting point for a backplate and working with the information needed. Just keep in mind that working with images at this size can drastically slow down your machine and use up a ton of your system's resources.
You will notice in the photo above that very little distortion in the horizon and very little parallax in things like the light pole on the left of the image. If I were using a super wide angle lens here the image, especially the horizon, would look totally different. Because of the tripod head using the nodal point in the lens I was able to create an image with very little distortion.
Using a No-Parallax Tripod
Really Right Stuff describes the No-Parallax Point positioning as "absolutely critical anytime you're shooting a scene that has diverging/converging lines (roads, paths, fence lines, windows, etc), especially when these elements are in the foreground and close to the camera. In that case, skip to the bottom of this tutorial for further recommendations. Once you've found the No-Parallax Point for your lens, make a note of it so that you can easily repeat your setup the next time." Check out their guide to finding the No-Parallax Point in your lens. Also check out Known No-Parallax points to find the exact measurement settings for your lens. To buy the tripod head click here.
Please keep a look out for part two of this series where we will finish the image. Again I will be the first to admit that this image is nothing special, but just an example to show you the vast benefits to using a tripod head such as this one to create a focal length that doesn't exist with any lens in the world.