Panoramic images are often created by joining together several images taken with a camera having a rectilinear lens and a conventional field of view. This process is often loosely described as "stitching". The process is not as simple as it might seem at first sight.
Specialist software is available for this purpose. Images are processed and distorted so that the edges of adjacent frames merge seamlessly together. The amount of distortion of the original images required is dependent in part upon the focal length of the lens used. A wide-angle lens can be used to capture the elements of a 360-degree panorama in three or four images, but the amount of distortion required to merge together adjacent elements will be large. A higher number of images captured with a longer focal-length lens will require less distortion to achieve a satisfactory result.
Various types of editing software are available, and each has its own particular capabilities. The simplest type of software creates mosaics from a grid of images which were all captured with the camera perpendicular to the plane of the subject. The individual images therefore require only alignment rather than warping or distortion. More sophisticated software caters for rows of images taken by rotating a camera about a fixed point in a flat plane which is normally perpendicular to the horizon. Another version allows for multiple rows of adjacent images to be merged together, some of which are captured with the camera tilted away from the horizontal plane. Finally, spherical panorama software creates a complete spherical panorama from numerous rows of adjacent images to create a complete 360-degree visual experience. The images are merged together so that an observer at the centre of the sphere can look directly up or down and see the component images seamlessly merged at the "poles" of the panorama.