How to create great panorama photos with Hugin

by Martin de Boer

If you search online for “Best Panorama Stitching software 2018”, chances are very high that you find an article that mentions Hugin (1, 2, 3). The reason is that this is one of the best programs to stitch photos for Linux, MacOS and Windows. And it is free and open source! The criticism is that its aimed at professional users and that it can be a bit overwhelming for new users. This article will provide you with a rundown on how to use Hugin. I have used openSUSE Leap 15 as my operating system, but this tutorial will work across distributions and operating systems.

Tutorial

  1. Start the Hugin Panorama Creator. The Assistant tab is the first thing that you will see. Click on Load images.
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  2. Select the images that you want to use to create a panorama.
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  3. Next, click the Align button to auto-align the pictures.
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  4. Now go to the Projection tab. I recommend that you try different ways of projection. I mostly use the options Rectilinear, Cylindrical or Architectural. This really can’t go wrong, because you can always go back to the default, which is Rectilinear.
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  5. Then go to the Move/Drag tab. I would recommend to only use this feature when the picture has an incorrect angle or is really off-center. It never hurts to try, but be aware that the buttons (Center / Fit / Straigthen) might deform the picture in a way that you don’t like. In that case, it is better to start all over again (Click on File –> New). There is no Undo button! In the example below, I use this feature to correct the angle of the panorama.
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  6. Now it is time to perfect your panorama. Go to the Crop tab. I prefer to use the sliders inside the picture, to determine the correct borders (up, down, left and right). It gives you a lot of control over the final picture. You can also use the Autocrop button, but where is the fun in that?
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  7. After all necessary adjustments are made, go back to the Assistant tab. Now click on the Create panorama button.
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  8. Now you will be asked how to adjust for the differences in exposure. I will always start with either the first option (Exposure corrected, low dynamic range) or the second option (Exposure fused from stacks). This depends on my visual inspection of the photo’s. If I see a lot of differences (some are very bright, some are darker) I tend to choose the second option. If the differences are not so pronounced, I usually stick with the first option.
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  9. You will be asked to save your project and save the picture. The project will always be saved as a .pto file. The picture can be saved in different formats. But I leave it on Tiff. After the panorama is created and if I am happy with the results, I use GIMP to convert the panorama to the Jpeg format.
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  10. Hugin will now create the panorama. This can take a while, so you need to wait for a minute or maybe two. You can view the end result here in a higher resolution.
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Manual alignment

Hugin has an advanced feature for manually aligning the pictures. Although this feature gives you a lot of control over the stitching of your photo’s, most of the time you don’t need to bother with it. In 98% of the times, Hugin does it automatically and does it well. But there are still situations where Hugin is not able to auto-align. And in these cases, you need to use the Panorama editor (View –> Panorama editor). In the Panorama editor you can manually determine the control points (the points that are the same in both pictures) for photo’s that need to be stitched side by side. It is not so hard, once you get the hang of it. You select the pictures that need to be next to each other with the drop down buttons. Then you click on a point that is very distinctive on both pictures. And then click on the Add button. Once you have ~10 control points between the 2 pictures, Hugin should be able to stitch them perfectly.

Conclusion

Hugin might seem a bit overwhelming for new users at first. But once you get the hang of it, it is an easy program to use. It allows you to capture that incredibly beautiful landscape in widescreen.

Published on: 1 August 2018