Thursday, May 5, 2011

I love ICE

One of my favorite tools in my big bag of photography tricks is Microsoft ICE. Essentially ICE lets you create composite panoramics.

You can take any number of photos and then feed it through ICE and it magically combines them together for you.

I have, for the record, used a number of other tools - i.e. Adobe Bridge -> Photoshop is one way, there are some homebrew filters for GIMP and Hugin is another path. In short, though, ICE is by far the best tool.

A couple caveats:
  • If you're shooting with an SLR camera, check if you have an exposure lock option. Autofocus on your first point, set your zoom to manual so it doesn't change, lock your exposure at your median shot and then capture as many overlapping shots as you can.
  • If you're shooting with a normal shutter speed, you generally do not need a tripod. That being said, if you're doing late night photography or sunset/sunrise shots then you might want to use a tripod. Tripods are nicer for being able to articulate a set number of degrees per shot but generally speaking ICE doesn't care if you overlap exactly at 5 degrees or if you capture a bunch of shots willy nilly.
  • If you don't have exposure lock then use one of your manual modes, ideally a straight M mode, and set your camera for the median shot. Then capture per normal.
If you don't have an exposure lock and can't work around it, generally ICE can compensate anyways. However I find that I get a much better quality picture in general if I can exposure/focus lock.

Here's a concrete example of a shot I did near Kamloops. Something like 20+ 10MP photos which stiched into a ~48 MP shot:

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