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Hugin Panorama Photo Stitcher

Introduction to the Free Panorama Photo Stitcher Hugin

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6 photos combined into a single panorama

This image was produced from six photos stitched together using the Assistant feature of Hugin.

© Ian Pullen

Hugin is a free panorama photo stitcher offered under an open source license. The main purpose of the software is to allow users to easily blend together a series of overlapping photos of the same scene to produce a larger single image.

While the software is offered for free, it is a very powerful application that offers more possibilities than just stitching a number of overlapping photos. It can also be used to correct perspective within a photo, such as occurs when taking a photo of a building from close-up. In that case the vertical lines of the building will appear to converge, but Hugin can be used to make the lines appear parallel.

Stitching multiple photos together to produce a larger photo could, on occasion be invaluable to a Graphic Designer, particularly when designing for larger format print projects.

Highlights of Hugin

Hugin may look a little intimidating at first, but despite its powerful feature set, it is a suitable tool for users of all skill levels.

  • Free for everyone to download and use
  • Available for Windows, OS X and Linux computers
  • Assistant mode makes it very quick and easy to achieve results
  • Large number of manual controls for more advanced users
  • Stitch together many photos in different rows into one large photo
  • Remove the effects of perspective and correct lens distortion

Why Use Hugin

While my first look at the user interface made it appear quite daunting, using the Assistant feature breaks the process down into three simple steps. However, reading some of the basic tutorials shows how the software uses a series of actions to produce stitched photos and that even new users should be able to take manual control of the process relatively quickly.

Hugin may be an attractive software option for enthusiast photographers as well as professionals looking for high quality results. While its prime purpose is to stitch together panoramic images that can be very aesthetically pleasing, it can extend a photographer's tool kit in other ways also.

Where image quality is mission critical, the ability for Hugin to correct lens distortion could be every bit as useful as the application's stitching capabilities. It also has the ability to compensate for perspective to produce results similar to those produced by expensive Perspective Control Lenses, also known as Shift and Tilt-Shift lenses. While professional architectural photographers may never choose software correction over specialist lenses, for the rest of us, software correction is really the only realistic option available to use.

Limitations of Hugin

Before going further, I must say that I haven't used Hugin extensively and have only used it for its photo stitching capabilities. 

Its user interface can seem a little intimidating at first glance, though the beginners' tutorials can quickly dispel initial concerns over complexity and for those wanting the simplest path, the Assistant feature makes it very easy. The only other potential issue that I could possibly see during my time using Hugin is that if you want to stitch many high resolution photos together, this could take some time, particularly on less powerful computers. For each image being stitched, Hugin may look for tens of thousands of control points, that help it accurately blend photos, and that obviously may require a lot of your computer's processing power.

Help and Support

Hugin is more intuitive to use than you may at first think, meaning that many users will be able to jump in and produce stitched panorama photos very quickly. That said, however, if you want to get the most from the application, then it would be a good use of your time to work through some of the tutorials on the Hugin site. Within the interface, there is a Help menu that includes a link to full help files that you can view in a web browser and the Hugin site has a page of documentation, including a link to frequently asked questions. The links page also offers a range of useful resources, including user forums, that will help you get the very most from using Hugin for panorama photo stitching and other purposes.

You can download your own free copy of Hugin from their SourceForge site.

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