Highly Automated and Easy Way to
Take Panoramic or Photo Sphere Pictures
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1. Introduction:

In our sightseeing trips, sometimes we come to a spectacular Lookout Point with stunning landscape views (
). Some examples of such spectacular panoramic pictures can be seen on
my web pages at:





However, the regular mode of most cameras can take only a small portion of the panoramic view and cannot
convey the powerful feeling of the fantastic panoramic view. It is desirable to have highly automated and easy
way to take such spectacular panoramic pictures.

Fortunately, highly automated and easy way to take spectacular panoramic pictures has been available for
more than several years as a built in feature on many newer versions of smartphones, tablets, iPhones, iPads,
and digital cameras. In a nutshell, the smartphone or tablet's camera keeps on shooting images automatically
while the user pans around with his/her smartphone or tablet, and then the set of individual photos are stitched
together automatically, thus one seamless panoramic photograph is created within a few seconds. It is a very
intuitive and simple way to take panoramic pictures.

But many people still do not know or are not familiar with such wonderful capability in their smartphones or
tablets, or certain new digital cameras.

To check if your smartphone or tablet has this panoramic feature, tap on the camera icon on the screen to see
how many options show up on the screen for you to use the camera. If Panorama is one of the options, then
your smartphone or tablet has this highly automated feature to take panoramic pictures easily. (Older versions
of iPhones (e.g., iPhone3) and older versions of Android smartphones do not have such built in feature. But
certain special App may be available to add such feature into certain older versions of iPhones and Android

As an example, the simple and easy procedure to take panoramic pictures using Samsung Galaxy S5 Android
smartphone is described at the following website:


This wonderful panoramic feature is useful not only for taking pictures of spectacular panoramic landscapes,
but also very useful in many other occasions. For example, when we want to take group pictures with large
number of group members, the traditional way is to ask everybody in the large group to squeeze into a very
tight space in a narrow angular range (e.g., 70 degrees) covered by the traditional cameras. In such tight
squeeze of a large group, the faces of some members may be blocked by other members. But with easy
panoramic capability in so many smartphones and tablets, we can let the large group spread out over a wider
and more comfortable angular range of, say, 90 degrees or 120 degrees, so that all members are shown
clearly and are not blocked by other members.

Many manufacturers of smartphones, tablets and cameras are competing and enhancing to offer better and  
easier way to take panoramic pictures. Therefore, the exact procedure to take panoramic picture may vary
slightly from one manufacture to another, but they are all roughly similar.

The simple and easy procedure to take panoramic pictures on Android tablet, Nexus 10, is slightly different
from that on smartphone, Samsung Galaxy S5, and is described in the following:

2. The Procedure:

The procedure to use Google Nexus 10 tablet to take panoramic pictures is the following:

a. Tap Camera Icon on the tablet screen to open the camera App on the tablet
b. Swipe the screen from left edge to right to bring out the camera option menu
c. Tap Panorama Icon (among 5 options for using camera) to take panorama pictures
d. Tap Panorama Start Icon to start the process
e. Hold the Nexus tablet vertically and close to your body, then Pan (rotate) yourself and the Tablet in the
direction indicated by the pointer on the screen
f. The camera takes a series of snapshots as you pan (rotate) the tablet
g. Tap Check Mark on right side of the screen to complete/stop the process
h. The tablet will stitch the set of snapshots automatically and be ready to show/share the panoramic picture in
less than one minute

As the user is panning (rotating) the tablet around himself/herself, the pointing direction of the camera is
represented by a circle with cross-hairs on the screen. A set of angularly equally spaced pointing directions
where the tablet camera wants to take pictures is represented by a set of equally spaced blue dots along a
horizontal dashed line in the middle of the screen. The blue dots on the screen are guides to keep the alignment
of the set of snapshot photos. As the user is panning (rotating) the tablet, when the circle with cross-hairs
coincides with one of the blue dots on the screen, the tablet camera takes a snapshot automatically. So, all
user needs to do is to rotate the pointing direction of the tablet steadily for the circle with cross-hairs to swipe
through all those blue dots on the screen for the camera to take all those snapshots automatically. While
panning, the user position the pointing of the tablet so that the blue dot on the screen lines up with the circle
with cross-hair.

Then the tablet stitches all those snapshots together into a seamless panoramic picture within a few seconds.
The total angle covered by the panoramic picture can be complete 360 degrees around you or any other
smaller angular range such as 270 degree, 120 degrees, etc. depending on when you tap the Check Mark on
the right side of the screen to stop the process.

3. Compared to Old Fashioned Method:

Amazing, no tripod is necessary in such simple and highly automated way of using smartphones or tablets to
take panoramic picture. The important and required function of the tripod in old fashion method is now replaced
by (a) the circle with cross-hair and the series of blue dots on the tablet screen to guide the user in rotating the
tablet steadily, or (b) the smartphone screen shows a long and narrow box (representing the panoramic picture
frame) and an alignment box (representing the individual snapshot frame) to help you keep the scene aligned.

This is much easier and simpler as compared to the old fashion method that I had been using in previous years
with my regular cameras to take panoramic pictures in many of my sightseeing trips such as those listed at the
beginning of this web page.

In the old fashion method, I have to set up the camera on a tripod and to center and to level the set up carefully
so that the camera can rotate horizontally accurately to cover the entire angular range of interest. Then I have
to take the series of snapshots at suitable angular separation while making sure that successive pictures have
at least 30 % overlap so that the stitching software in my desktop PC at home can stitch the set of snapshots
together seamlessly. Then after I come home, I download the set of snapshots from my camera into my PC
and activate the stitching software in my PC to stitch the set of snapshots into a panoramic picture. This means
the panoramic picture is not available on the spot in my sightseeing trip and will not be available 5 or 10 days
later after I come home to do the software stitching on my PC at home. In case if such panoramic picture has
some problems for any reasons, I cannot take another panoramic picture because that spectacular scenery is
thousands of miles away from my home.

But in using the smartphone or tablet in taking panoramic pictures, if the result of the first panoramic picture  
shows up on the screen is not good for any reason, I can easily take another one right on the same spot. This
is one of several great advantages of the new highly automated method vs. the old fashion tedious method for
taking panoramic pictures.

4. Some Sample Results:

In October, 2014, I took my Nexus 10 tablet to Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, USA. The spectacular
panoramic pictures from Grand Canyon taken by this tablet are shown on my web page at:


It is amazing. I am very impressed by how easy it is to take the panoramic pictures almost instantly by this

On May 30, 2014, I took this Nexus 10 tablet to the Twin Lights on the hill top in Highlands in New Jersey to try
and to practice the automated panorama feature of this tablet.

Some sample panoramic pictures taken this way by using Google Nexus 10 Tablet on the Twin Lights are
shown on my web page at:


Indoor panoramic pictures taken by smartphone of Parties of Young@Heart Club and CACA 40 Plus Club in
New Jersey are shown on the following web page:


Indoor panoramic pictures taken by smartphone of a huge Chinese Dim Sum Restaurant in Houston, Texas are
shown at the following website:


It is worthwhile for you to get familiar with such highly automated and easy way to take panoramic pictures on
your smartphone or tablet or new camera so that you can also do it easily when the occasion arises.

5. Taking Photo Sphere Pictures

Another mode for using camera on Google Nexus 10 tablet is Photo Sphere mode for taking immersive Photo
Sphere panoramic picture.

The panoramic picture described in Sections 2 to 4 covers 360 degrees around only one axis, Photo Sphere
covers all angles, both vertical and horizontal. The photo sphere mode is like a wraparound panorama, covering
left, right, up, down, and all around. The end result is an interactive image that you can pan and tilt to see
everything around you. Photo Sphere lets you capture everything in every direction, even up and down, around
you in a unique way. It provides an immersive, engaging and much richer photo experience for the viewers.

An example of immersive Photo Sphere panoramic picture of the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco is shown
in the following website:


The procedure to take Photo Sphere picture is very similar to that of panoramic picture described in Section 2
with the following exceptions:

A. Chose Photo Sphere mode instead of Panorama mode in the option menu of Camera App.
B. After completing taking the series of snapshots along the line of Blue Dots on the horizontal line on the
screen, tilt the direction of the tablet up (or down) from the horizontal line, you will see more Blue Dots to guide
you to take more snapshots above (or below) the horizontal line.
C. After you take all the snapshots on all the Blue Dots on the screen, then tap the check mark on the right side
of the screen to complete the process of taking Photo Sphere picture at that particular location.

My first practice to take Photo Sphere pictures was on October 5, 2018 at the center of Palace of Fine Arts in
San Francisco. The results are shown in
here and here. These two are my first experience in learning to take
Photo Sphere pictures and are not perfect.

One of the problems is that Palace of Fine Arts is a very popular tourist attraction with many tourists walking
and moving while I was taking Photo Sphere pictures. This initial "poor" experience confirms that Photo Sphere
shots work best with static surroundings, such as landscapes and still life images.

The second problem is that I was in a rush and did not spend enough time to take the Photo Sphere pictures
more carefully. I probably missed one or two blue dots on the screen. I will have to practice some more in the
future to take better Photo Sphere pictures.