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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

Photography workflow on openSUSE

by Martin de Boer

I am a hobbyist photographer. Which means my needs for a digital photography workflow are modest. However, open source definitely makes my life as an amateur photographer easier. For many people, it starts with getting their first (digital) camera and just exporting their photos to their computer. And maybe they like to do some basic photo edits such as cropping and/or resizing. There are 2 open source programs that prove to be very helpful for beginners:

  1. Rapid Photo Downloader (fast download of photos to your computer)
  2. Gwenview (for photo viewing and simple edits)

After a while, the more aspiring photographers will like to do a bit more with their photo’s. Maybe have a program where you can manage your photo library. And some programs where you can do some more advanced photo edits. These aspiring photographers most likely still use the .jpg format. For these photographers I would recommend the workflow:

  1. Rapid Photo Downloader
  2. digiKam (for advanced photo management)
  3. Hugin (for stitching photo’s into panorama’s)
  4. Luminance HDR (for stitching HDR images)

By the time you get (more) serious into photography, the first thing that you need to know is that professional photographers are working with RAW image files. This is the equivalent of the analog negative film (pictured below). A RAW file is not (yet) a photo, but it contains all the information needed to export a digital photo. In comparison to the .jpg / .bpm / .png format, a RAW image file contains all of the metadata and sensor data that is captured by the camera. With the right program, you are able to adjust things like color and lightning.

Most people have heard of Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom. This is what most professional photographers use for their workflow. However, these programs are (at this time) not available on Linux. The current (29th April 2018) pricing for the Photography plan is € 12,09 / month (in NL) or $ 9,99 / month (in US). So this is currently priced at ~ € 145 / $ 120 a year.

Lucky for us openSUSE users, there are some very capable programs that are alternatives for these 2 well known programs. And these alternatives are free (and gratis) to install and use. Lets start with the alternative for Adobe Lightroom. The open source alternative is called Darktable. It can do a lot of things with your digital negatives. It has over 60 modules that can make multiple adjustments to your photos.

The open source alternative to Photoshop is called GIMP (the GNU Image Manipulation Program). Just 2 days ago (27th April 2018) GIMP version 2.10 has been released (1). This application can seem daunting to learn at first. The trick is to not try to learn everything at once. But to learn small edits that you can do with the program, one edit at a time. This is also something I like to address in future posts.

This brings us to the workflow for an advanced or professional photographer on openSUSE. I would recommend the workflow:

  1. Rapid Photo Downloader
  2. digiKam
  3. Darktable
  4. GIMP
  5. Hugin / Luminance HDR

In future posts, I want to go into more details on how to use these programs. From basic features to more advanced photo editing.

Published on: 29 April 2018