Panoramic photos can easily be created using specialized software that take a number of images and assemble them into a single panoramic photo. They are called Panorama Software, Panoramic Software or Stitching Software which all mean exactly the same thing.
While image manipulation software like Adobe Photoshop CS5 can also be used to create panoramas, the task would be incredibly tedious and time-consuming. Sometimes though, panorama software does not manage to create a perfect panorama and image manipulation software can be used to fix it.
As explained in the How To Make a Panorama tutorial, panoramic software needs to have some overlap between images that make up a panorama. This is because stitching images together seamlessly is considerably more complex than putting a collage together. The overlap is first used to determine how images fit together and then it has to be distorted to avoid discontinuities.
Modern panorama software automate the process but they differ between themselves in how they do it. Autostich pioneered panorama feature-matching and is the basis for several other software. These software usually use their own blending and processing to render the panorama, which is why they do not produce exactly the same results. Being difficult and sometimes impossible to stitch certain images together, there are times when panorama software make incorrect decisions. For such cases, various software have different ways for users to tweak the process.
HDR was born as a way to capture scenes with more dynamic-range than a digital sensor or film can handle. The result is an HDR file representing much more dynamic-range than can be shown on a conventional display or printed. In order to show such an image, Tone-Mapping was created. This is a process to transform a wide dynamic-range into a normal one in a way that is meaningful. Exposure-Fusion was later invented to obtain similar results without an HDR image.
By themselves, neither Exposure-Fusion nor HDR have anything to do with panoramic photography. However, the greater the field-of-view of any image, the greater the probability that the scene's dynamic-range will be too high to capture in a single exposure. As such, some newer panorama software can:
Panoramic software also differ greatly in their interfaces. Naturally, simpler software have more chances of offering a simpler interface. Interactivity has a huge impact on usability as well. Things like repositioning, distorting and rotating are work infinitely better when the user can directly interact with the panorama. If one must specificy rotation as numeric values, it often becomes a frustrating task of trail-and-error.
Panoramas can be small to humongous. People have created gigapixel images using panoramic photography which means over 1000 megapixels. Not only does this mean a huge number of input files and an extremely large output file, it also means a considerable amount of processing and memory is required. Not all panoramic software can handle such panoramas and, even if they can, the time it takes can differ considerably.
To help choose the best panoramic software for your use, read more panorama software reviews and articles:
High quality panoramas are assembled by specialized image stitching software like the ones reviewed here. Stitching a panorama photo is very complex so the panorama software can make a huge difference.
All you really need is a capable digital camera and stitching software. There is plenty of photography gear that can greatly help make a panorama, with a tripod being most beneficial.
Check items below for recommended gear to make capturing panoramic photos much more enjoyable: