The word is "panorama" from "pano" meaning "all" in Greek, plus "rama" meaning sight in Greek. It is "pano" and not "pana." It is now used to describe images that include more than 90 degrees of view.
The first trick in making a panoramic photo is to take several shots with a slight overlap of view. (Even 10% overlap is enough.) To avoid added distortion, try to rotate the camera at the lens and not the base. Then you need to meld the images together.
There are basically two types of programs to make panoramic images. One, just slams the images together with no effort to adjust the edges or to smooth the overlaps. IrfanView is a photo organizer that has this option. Photo Commander 7 by Ashampoo does something nearly as useless.
The useful programs actually use the overlap in the images to align the photos and then adjust them to have a seamless look. Canon Cameras have this software. (I like it.) For the newest reviews of panoramic (also called "stitching") software you can visit http://www.panoguide.com/
Some cameras have a panographic option that can stitch together a limited number of photos.
The process is the same for most programs. First you get a sequence of images with some overlap. Then the program matches the edges together. Then do a crop on the full image.
Slammed together, the images might look like this:
Part of the problem is the camera setting will change as you change the view. As far as the lens is concerned, a view looks something like this:
This leads to minor flaws. Notice how the overlap did not mesh well in this example. The area in the red box has a duplicate image:
This shows the desired effect:
The finished image can easily be over 5,000 pixels across and over 1,000 pixels vertical. If the image is re-sized, you lose part of the grandeur of the panoramic effect.
To print the image, you need a special printer. Or, print sections of the image and tape the pages together. There is special software for this.
To put a panoramic image online, you have a few options. Re-size the image to fit on the page, or allow the browser to effect a scroll bar. The following page will fit on some computers. Others will have a scroll bar on the
These are most useful in the 360 degree panoramas. Seeing a 360 degree view of a panoramic spread out, will look distorted. Viewing parts of it while scrolling, looks natural.
With the ability to stitch vertical and horizontally, users are using the web to post the largest photographs in the world. This link has an image stitched from 12,000 photos. http://www.gigapan.org/gigapans/66626/
Not many programs can stitch images vertically as well as horizontally.
Aside from real estate images, a popular use of panoramas is for maps. You have an online map with markings. Click on a marking and you see a panoramic image from that viewpoint.