light entry point for better panorama stitching

light entry point for better panorama stitching

The light entry point (LEP), AKA nodal point, is an important part in getting high quality panorama photos. If you set your camera to be over the rotation of your camera your software will have a much easier time giving you a quality result. Here is a way to ensure you have found the LEP for your lens. Note that should you be working with a zoom lens you will want to find the LEP for a couple different spots on your lens. The LEP changes when you zoom in or out.

Light entry point

Light entry point, or entrance pupil, and where it is in relation to where the camera pivots, is the key to better panorama stitching. Panoramas can show your world in a creative way. Many times a pano tells the best story of your scene. Better results can be found using a couple things I’ll share in this article.

Results showing not using the light entry point to capture images. This is usable but needs lots of extra effort to correct the stitch.
Result when the camera is level and the lens is over the Light Entry Point.

Let’s talk about why your panorama software might not render your stitching of images properly. Hold your thumb out in front of your face with your arm extended. Close one eye. Then close the other eye and your thumb appears to jump from one position to another even though you know it hasn’t moved. What’s happening is the angle of view from one eye to the other changes the background that is visible giving the the appearance of movement.

When your camera does this blending images together becomes very difficult and weird things happen in stitching. This anomaly is more apparent when you have something that is relatively close to the camera. When the pivot point is not over the light entry point. If the panorama subject is further away and you have nothing in the foreground your software has less of a problem with the stitching which is why you can get away with it sometimes and not others.

Panorama head kits

There are specific panorama heads for getting your camera. You can spend from just under a hundred bucks to well over $700. Ask yourself, “How much am I going to produce this type of work?” If it’s a LOT and you need super accuracy then you’ll want to spend the higher dollar amount and buy the higher quality materials. If you are willing to work a little harder and McGyver your way to a result then you’ve come to the correct blog post.

Frugal person’s panorama kit

If you are working with a wide angle lens you can get away with a few bits and pieces. A 120mm quick release plate, $10.99. If you want to work with longer lenses a 150mm or longer plate will be useful $15.59. Arca Swiss clamp $24.95. Arca Swiss ‘L’ bracket, $19.95. I use Peak Design camera straps so that I can quickly remove or replace the strap when working on a tripod. Not necessary, but I find it much easier than trying to wrap the strap. If you would like to do multi row panoramas you will need to tilt the camera while staying over the LEP.

platypod elite and panorama gear
The Platyball Elite has a built in level. When it’s level and the camera is level you can use the built in rotation to pivot the camera and it stays level from one side to the other.
platypod elite and panorama gear with fotopro tripod
I have the Platyball mounted on a Fotopro carbon fiber tripod. The macro rail allows you to easily dial in the LEP over the pivot point for clean panorama stitches.
The tilt plate allows for multiple row panoramas. Note: With this set up you need to move the camera forward a few notches to maintain the LEP. The macro rail makes that a piece of cake.

If you want to get a little more advanced with the poor man’s panorama set up shown above check out these items. Six inch sliding macro rail, Universal Flex Tilt Head Z Mount Bracket,

finding the light entry point

Here is one way to find the light entry point. Make it so your camera can move forward and backward on your tripod. You can either add a macro focus rail or buy a long Arca Swiss plate. (see above) In order to really understand the changes happening due to the lens position I recommend you perform these tests for yourself.

This illustrates the light entry point after testing with the method shown below. Notice that even on a wide angle lens the entrance pupil is forward of the camera body.

Set up a couple light stands. One about six feet in front of your camera. The other at least 15-20 feet away. If you have a small space you can use the corner of the room for your second vertical or move outside like I did so you couldn’t see my messy studio. In order to better see the results I wrapped and taped a piece of paper on the further light stand.

Place the camera over the tripod pivot point, where it would normally sit without the longer plate. Line up the two verticals in the center of your frame. Make an image. Pivot the camera so the foreground light stand is on the right side of the frame. Grab a frame. Move the camera to the left side of the frame. Repeat photographing on each side.

Next, slide the camera backward so the front of the lens is closer over the pivot point. Make the same exposures. Note the difference. You may have to repeat several times moving the camera forward and back until you get it just so.
 Repeat the process until the further light stand or vertical reference is always covered by the front light stand. Note or mark the lens where the pivot point is for future reference.

Yours In Creative Photography, Bob

contact info all in one place

Trying out something new. I’ve signed on to and added my contact information. This is the easiest way to share all my contact stuff to your phone. Scan the QR code and you’ll have links to my commercial, art and photographers websites plus my email and phone number. Pretty cool right?

Scan the code to download all my contact info to your phone.

If you are interested in using this service yourself you can learn more here.

new dates for next year 2024

new dates for next year 2024

Had a blast with my last couple at the Milky Way and Night Sky Photo Workshop here in Sedona. We had two clear nights with the Milky Way making an appearance both times. It was a test run to see how the class would go.

Here’s feedback from June workshop attendees Cindy and Paul…


Thanks for the resource page, I’m sure Paul and I will use it many times.  We thoroughly enjoyed the class and learned quite a bit during the few days we were there.

Here are my thoughts on the class: The Milky Way and Night Sky Workshop was very useful and enjoyable. Things we learned included planning, star stacking, focusing technique, and composition.

You were knowledgeable on different cameras and helpful finding needed camera settings for our cameras.  

Holding the course in the red rocks area of Arizona provided an excellent opportunity to implement all the techniques learned. I now feel confident in shooting the Milky Way and highly recommend the Bob Coates MW Photography Course.

Thanks again and take care.” Cindy

Paul and Cindy getting set up for the Blue Hour capture. Check comments on the class from Cindy above.

The four hours of instruction on the first day is just about right to cover all of the shooting and camera setup bases.

Dinner was great at Sound Bites Grill. SBG set up a limited, but extremely varied menu for my workshop guests. We even had live music. Then it was off to hike to the Milky Way location with time to scout out foregrounds and practice with the PhotoPills APP.

Day two was downloading and processing images from the night before and answering questions that popped up from the previous night’s shoot. Five hours in the classroom was plenty. Break time and dinner on our own meeting for night two of night sky photography. Off to bed and then an early morning session with extra Photoshop processing and answering final questions.

New dates have been posted on the Milky Way Workshop page. Take a look and let me know which dates work best for you.

Milky Way Night Sky Workshop

Milky Way Night Sky Workshop

It’s official I’m cleared to teach my Milky Way and Night Sky Photo Workshops. I’ll be your instructor in the classroom and your guide on the Coconino National Forest. Had to go through a number of things to become an approved temporary guide. One of those things was to renew my First Aid Certificate. I thought, ‘Man I’m pretty cool with First Aid.’ And I was but the review was a solid brush up on CPR and emergency procedures.

Join me

I’d like to have you join me for some time under the Bortle Four starry skies of Sedona, Arizona learning techniques to capture and process your files of the Milky Way, star trails and more in among the red rocks. Learn about the Bortle Skies scale.

Milky Way in Sedona, Arizona

More information

Get in touch with me for a special discount for the June 21-23, 2023 Milky Way and Night Sky Photography Workshop. Learn more about the workshop.

Yours in Creative Photography, Bob

photoshop artistic actions webinar

photoshop watercolor action from gavin phillips
Here’s a watercolor action. I find they are a great starting place for working on the next level of your images.

Webinar with Gavin Phillips

I’ll be teaming up with UK photographer Gavin Phillips to share a Photoshop webinar on artistic Photoshop plug-ins that he has designed for creating watercolors and paintings from your photographs. When you sign up for the webinar you’ll get two backgrounds as a bonus. If you can’t make the live event you’ll be able to view the recorded version. Learn more and sign up here.

oil paint photoshop action
Oil paint Photoshop action designed by Gavin Phillips.

April 5th 2023

Even if you can’t make the live event you get a link to watch the webinar at your leisure. Hope you can join us on April 5th at 11AM pacific and 2PM eastern time. If you have any questions give me a shout or drop me an IM.

Yours in Creative Photography, Bob

Platypod overview

You probably know I am a Platypod Ambassador. But in addition I am a Platypod fan. I originally bought one of the first Platypod Ultras. Used it a few times then forgot about it. I broke it back out, started looking for way in which to use it and found a lot.

Since the release and design of the Ultra Platypod has gone through some great improvements and lots of useful gear has been designed around it for for studio and location work. If you haven’t seen and worked with the Platypod products here’s a one minute video to help introduce you to all the ways Platypod can help your photography.

One minute with the Platypod line of gear. Take a peek. You’ll probably run into some creative ways to use the gear that you never thought to use.

Yours in Creative Photography, Bob

Review LED Light Godox LA 200

This is a powerful LED light that’s solid for studio work and light enough to take on location. I appreciate the Color Rendering Index is a high 96 for clean color with no shifts. It produces lots of light 230 watts. It’s easier to show you how this light works than to write about it, so I invite you to check it out. See what I like, a lot, and a small issue or two to watch for…

Review LED Light – Godox LA200 Single color 5600k. Godox also makes a LA150 and bi-color versions.

If you have any comments or questions about this review let me know. BTW, I was able to keep this LED Light at no charge.

Yours in Creative Photography, Bob

Want to look a little closer at the specs or order the light, here’s a link –

ppa cover images by bob coates photography

December finds my water drop image on the cover of Professional Photographer Magazine. I consider it quite an honor considering from all the images from which PPA can choose.

water drop phot cover ppa magazine

December 2021 PPA Magazine cover by Bob Coates

How PPA Chooses

Images for the cover of Professional Photographer Magazine are chosen from the Imaging Excellence Collection (formerly the Loan Collection), which have been chosen by jurors of PPA’s International Photographic Competition, with the occasional exception of images from the World Photographic Cup or from an Imaging USA speaker.

“Bob Coates’ ‘Orange Burst’ made an exceptional cover choice for its rich, vibrant color and the unique balance in its composition from the moment of capture,” says Joan Sherwood, senior editor of Professional Photographer. “It’s extraordinary how something as simple as water drops in a bowl can reveal such dynamic beauty.”

Jane Gaboury, Director of Publications added, “We love this image of Bob’s for our December cover. It not only demonstrates mastery of many photographic techniques, but it’s artistically accomplished as well. It’s a terrific example of what PPA’s Imaging Excellence Collection represents—the best of the best in professional photography today.”

Image info

The cover was accompanied by the How-to and creation of the image in a full page article. Professional Photographer is the trade magazine for Professional Photographers of America with over 30,000 members.

First Cover

ppa cover with sailboat

January 2001 PPA Magazine cover by Bob Coates

This is the second time I’ve had an image chosen for the cover. The last one was in January of 2001.

I just hope I’m around in twenty years for the next one!!

Yours in Creative Photography, Bob

PS – You can learn more about my setup and water drop photography in my article for The Photographer and Successful-Photographer waterdroplet setup and Successful-photographer Splash Photography

platypod and black friday

platypod and black friday

Flower with shiprock new mexico

Flowers and greenery sneak through the dry desert in front of Shiprock in New Mexico.

As an Ambassador for Platypod tripods I thought you might be interested in the Black Friday deals they’ve just launched. You can find savings on five different gear bundles.You can save from $25 to $126 depending upon which bundle you choose. Plus, free shipping on orders over 100 bucks. Look here for all the deals.

Platypod can help you get low in the field or tighten up your studio shooting space. Here’s an image I made with the camera on a very low angle to feature the flower against Shiprock in New Mexico.

Here’s a BTS shot of the Platy going low…

Platypod ultra with olympus E-M1 Mark III camera

An Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 M.Zuiko Pro lens on the OM-D E-M1 Mark III mounted on the Platypod Ultra

If you have any questions, let me know.

Yours in Creative Photography,      Bob

recent magazine and online articles by me

It’s interesting the turn my career has taken over the years. Commercial photographer, wedding photographer, portrait photographer, educator and writer. I’ve worked through many genres of photography and now concentrate on creating art, commercial imaging and education/writing.

Current writing ASP and The Photographer Magazines

Article in the Fall Issue of ASP Magazine

Here is are a couple magazine articles I’ve penned and had published recently. One is for American Society of Photographers (ASP). It was a follow-up to my photographing the Milky way article. This was on processing to take the images to the next level. Look for the Summer issue for planning and shooting. Fall issue was on post-production of Milky Way images. The camera, lens and long exposure collect way more information than your eye can see. Post processing reveals all the color and grandeur of the Milky Way.

Article in the latest issue of The Photographer Magazine

The other magazine article that just dropped was for ‘The Photographer’ magazine. It shares ideas on capturing water droplets in and artistic and colorful fashion. The Art of Photographing Water Droplets can be accessed and read here.

Photofocus online

Photofocus is an online magazine for which I write at least three articles a month, often more, for the last three years. This is in addition to writing for Successful-Photographer. Here are a couple links to the last articles I posted.

If you are looking to sell your work online here is a possible solution for you. Getting your art found on Fine Art America.

This is an article on post-processing images with beauty retouching for hotel properties. Developing high-end hotel property photography.

Photography career

Weirdly enough all of my photography career has been some combination of photography, education including hands on and presentation to photography groups and writing about it. If you need a speaker, writer, photographer or Lens Based Artist, let me know!

Yours in Creative Photography,      Bob