How to create amazing panoramas with your iPhone

How to use the panorama camera on your iPhone

The Camera app on the iPhone lets you capture panoramas — much wider, much higher megapixel photos than are otherwise possible with the built in iSight lens. By taking a video-like stream of successive frames, the iPhone can literally create single photo greater than the sum of its parts. You can take a "pano" from either left to right or right to left, and you can even rotate your iPhone and take one from up to down or down to up. With iOS 8, panoramas will also be coming to the iPad!

The difference between wide angle and panorama

There's a fine line between what separates a photograph taken with a wide angle lens and a panoramic photograph. We're not going to get into the nitty-gritty details, so for the sake of simplicity, we'll say that a panoramic photo is one that has a wider field of view than the human eye, is at least twice as long as it is tall, and was created by using software (in our case, apps) to stitch together multiple images.

You've probably seen panorama's displayed and showcased at various places -- they're long and skinny and commonly have cityscapes, landscapes, and sports stadiums as their subject.

How to take a panoramic photo with your iPhone

  1. Launch the Camera app on your iPhone — note that the iPhone 4s and newer support panorama mode.
  2. Swipe to the left to change modes. You'll need to do this two times to switch from normal camera mode to panorama mode.
  3. The iPhone defaults to portrait mode from panoramas so make sure you are holding your iPhone that way and not in landscape mode.
  4. By default, panoramas always start on the left and want you to pan to the right. You can change this by tapping the arrow to change directions.
  5. Tap the capture button to start taking a panoramic photo.
  6. Keep your feet firmly planted and make sure the arrow stays on the line as you pan from right to left.
  7. Once you're done taking your pano, simply tap the capture button again.

The Camera app doesn't currently support full 360º panoramas. You can take up to a 240º panorama in one shot, so keep that in mind. You obviously don't have to use the entire 240º if you don't want to.

How to switch directions for a panoramic photo

The Camera app defaults to taking a pano from left to right. If, for some reason, that doesn't work for the photo you want to take, you can easily switch directions.

  1. Tap the Arrow button.
    1. Tap the capture button to start taking a panoramic photo.
  2. Keep your feet firmly planted and make sure the arrow stays on the line as you pan from right to left.
  3. Once you're done taking your pano, simply tap the capture button again.

How to take a vertical panorama with your iPhone

While the Camera app technically is meant to take panoramas horizontally, sometimes rules are meant to be broken. If you ever come across a time where you want to get a photo of a particularly tall building, being a little creative with panos can help you capture a perfectly unique photo.

  1. Launch the Camera app on your iPhone — note that the iPhone 4s and newer support panorama mode.
  2. Swipe to the left to change modes. You'll need to do this two times to switch from normal camera mode to panorama mode.
  3. Once you're in panorama mode, hold your iPhone in landscape mode instead.
  4. Tap the capture button to start taking a panorama.
  5. This time instead of panning left to right, pan up and down instead.
  6. Hit the capture button again when you're done.

How to get more help with Camera for iPhone and iPad

Note: Originally published in October 2012, updated May 2014.

Allyson Kazmucha

Editor for iMore, Potter pundit, and the ninja in your iOS

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There are 19 comments. Add yours.

FlopTech says:

Thanks Leanna! Lots of crucial tips that will save us tons of trial-and-error.

1WallpaperF says:

Hmm, I always have trouble doing it perfectly and I end up browsing sites like http://www.iphone5panoramawallpaper.com for nice panorama photos to use as lock screen wallpaper

lungho says:

Ok, now that's some nice photography. I must put this info to good use.

T-Will says:

One note to add, if you tap on the panoramic arrow, it will allow you to take the shot from right to left (instead of left to right).

Leanna Lofte says:

Thanks for the tip! I added it in :)

CamKrohn says:

Leanna, another great article! keep these coming! has helped a lot

garylapointe says:

Ahhhh! Keep the arrow in the center! I didn't realize that. I usually keep them pretty steady so it doesn't move enough for me to notice. But now that I read this, I just tried it and I think it'll help!

Autostitch is awesome, one of my first paid apps and still the most used!

AbblePC says:

Great piece on Panoramic photo shooting & editing, but you may have missed something else while using the Panoramic option. It is important to note that once you choose the Panorama option and the arrow appears on the screen, that you are not forced with only a Left to Right scanning option. To reverse the scanning direction while having the arrow on the screen, tap the arrow and it will invert the direction to Right to Left.
This may be very helpful in specific scenarios such as needing to capture a panoramic photo that has interesting features that are viewable only from that direction. Especially when sunlight or backlighting is better to start in a different area of your subject for obtaining a good focus and white balance or just to capture a different perspective.
It was a big help for me when I was getting creative one day while driving and having my camera mounted by a suction cup phone holder on the windshield and the camera was tilted looking to the right. If I had left it in L to R mode, the photo would not capture but a single frame as the R to L motion thought I was capturing in the wrong direction. Simply reversing the mode allowed the capture to complete with very interesting photos of passed vehicles, construction zones and Fall foliage.
Have fun with it, I know I am.

garylapointe says:

Cool! How fast are you driving when you do that?

Now I'm trying to figure out how it would look if there were a car next to you going the same speed :)

AbblePC says:

Actually I can upload them on Photoshare if you like and they can be viewed in a public folder for all. I was going to do just that this weekend so now is as good a time as any.
I was probably averaging different speeds as I captured different scenes, in fact it's odd what it does to the vehicles I pass on the right side of me, they appear scrunched at times or tractor trailers look normal at the bottom of the vehicle but thier top portions appear at times zig zagged, especially the trailer portion.
I was so amazed while doing it, I just kept taking different shots just to see the funny captures, especially the trucks. The backgrounds were somewhat normal looking in comparison to the vehicles, but when traveling down a mountnain, based on the gyroscope compass and accelerometer, they would start to cut off near the top of the frame. Still, it was fun to say the least.

Leanna Lofte says:

Thanks, I added in the arrow switching tip! :)

garylapointe says:

Interesting how they came out. Thanks for sharing!

tobias_i_d says:

very VERY interesting article. thanks for sharing =)

mdrivera says:

I hope you do not mind but, I shared these instructions here. https://www.facebook.com/IPhonePanoramicShots Thanks!

BePantastic says:

If you want to print your panorama, check out http://www.pantastic.co

msurguy says:

Great post, so many people create panoramas but there isn't a good place to share them. I love making web applications and have created a site for sharing your best panoramas. Please feel free to check it out and maybe add it to this post: http://panopanda.co

Thanks for the post!