How I took these vertical panoramic images in the most beautiful churches and cathedrals in the world

Vertical churches of the world is a project that started in 2012 in New York. It’s been ongoing since then and the project has been featured by numerous news agencies, blogs, and articles around the world (including here on DIYP). I felt now was the time to put some of the pictures in a book, which you can find here, and I thought I would prepare this article to explain a bit how I create them.

When you enter a church, which is mostly Gothic in style due to the long nave, try to find the center of the aisle. If you are lucky enough to be able to use a tripod to photograph, get a little closer to the front of the church altar and try to capture the dome above the altar. If you are shooting by a show of hands, find the same spot closer to the altar. Your objective is to capture the entire church in a panorama vertically from the altar to the narthex (the back of the church) while filming the ceiling along the way.

i use a Nikon 14-24mm 2.8 goal with my Nikon d850. I recommend using a wide angle lens, at least 24mm. Take photos using manual settings so you can change your settings as the light changes. As for the ISO settings, it depends on whether you have the luxury of using a tripod or not. Otherwise, I shoot at ISO 1600 or higher most of the time. The time required is only a few minutes with a tripod and less than a minute for handheld shooting.

When you pan, you need to overlap at least 25% of the previous photo so that Photoshop can blend the photos seamlessly. Your first shot should try to capture as much of the fairway / ground and the same for your last shot. Pull from the altar up towards the center of the ceiling and once you get to the center, physically turn around and pull up to the back of the church.

Don’t worry, when you turn around, Photoshop will know exactly what to do to complete the panorama for you. You should have between 5 and 9 hits in total. If you are using a tripod, simply flip the camera over and pull toward the back of the church.

To do the photo editing tasks, I always start with Lightroom and then move on to Photoshop. Lightroom allows you to get all photos in the same lighting sensation because your photos usually look very different from when you take the photo. Some are darker than others, and Lightroom is a fantastic program to use for aligning lighting differences. Lightroom also helps you straighten your photos, as some shots will sometimes be off-center. Once you have worked on all the shots, use Photoshop for the Panorama (Photomerge) part of the photo.

This part usually takes a while and once it’s done you need to reframe it as you like. I always end up with a 3×1 panoramic format but you can do whatever you want. After the panorama is finished, you may still have things in the photo that you want to correct like lighting, centering the photo when cropping, it may not look straight enough to you, all these issues can be handled in Photoshop .

Things to remember:

  1. Make sure you’ve captured at least 25% of the previous photo
  2. Stay focused to keep your shots centered
  3. Beware of very bright and very dark lit areas of the church and use the appropriate settings accordingly
  4. If shooting handheld, keep your hands steady to avoid lens shake
  5. Ask permission before setting up a tripod so as not to disrespect the church or parishioners
  6. Make sure the church is open on the day you want to turn – several times they are closed

About the Author

Richard Silver is a New York-born travel and architectural photographer who has visited 94 countries and over 350 cities with his camera. He enjoys iconic architecture, both old and modern, and enjoys documenting beautiful structures in every new city he visits. You can read more about Richard at his website, buy his book Vertical churches of the world and find out more about the website of the vertical churches of the world.

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