Why the right tools matter

A few years ago, I went off to Japan to visit my friend Chris. I took along my (at the time) fancy digital camera: a Canon Pro 90 IS. Fancy in that it was big mega-pixels (for the time) and had an image stabiliser built-in (that’s what the “IS” stands for). Like I do now, I used it to document the heck out of my trip.

One thing Canon had on its prosumer cameras at the time that they took out of the DSLR line was the panorama assist mode (I don’t think it exists in any of their models now — does it?). A handy feature, it let you create panoramic views by being able to line up your previous shot. Then you used some included software, and BOOM!, you had a panorama.

Or that’s how it was supposed to work.

It wasn’t perfect. And if you didn’t follow good practises, you ended up with somewhat sketchy pictures. Back then, I was still fairly new at all this, and my skills with the lens were sorely lacking. For example, I tried to use the fancy mode to do panoramas in both Akihabara and Shibuya in Japan.

Canon Photostitch — the software included with my camera — did a reasonable job on well-aligned photos, but was not able to correct even slight mis-alignments. And if you don’t travel with a tripod — which I didn’t at the time — you were asking for trouble. Or really weird results.

In truth, I was very upset when I got these pictures. I really wanted the panoramas. I spent hours trying to correct it. But the problem is mathematical, not image. I needed a better tool.

Enter my old friend, Photoshop. (Is there anything Photoshop can’t do?) The Automate > Photomerge feature is so handy, it’s almost frightening. Suck in a few pictures, and Photoshop goes to work on them. What do I end up with?

Pictures that are light-years better.