Microsoft ICE (Image Composite Editor) is a free programme for all Windows computers and is available for free download from here.
This is a great programme for creating panorama images. Until this programme was recommended to me I had always used Photoshop to create my panoramas. Even on a powerful machine Photoshop can take a long time to render panoramas and even with the automatic settings sometimes Photoshop gets it wrong and you have to select a different setting and wait again for it to render. The only disadvantage with ICE is that it doesn’t create the layers and masks that Photoshop does BUT it does do such a good job that on most occasions you won’t need the extra flexibility of Photoshop.
How to use ICE.
This programme is so easy to use that it doesn’t really need this tutorial but I will run through it anyway. On loading the programme this is the window that you see
You can drag and drop your images onto the centre grey area of the ICE window or go to File > New Panorama to browse your hard disk and select your images. ICE allows stitching of a large array of image types including jpg and some RAW file types. As soon as the images are loaded the programme goes to work and in literally a few seconds the photographs are analysed and the panorama is created. Until you have loaded some images all the other options, except for Exit, are greyed out.
Now the images are stitched the other options below the image are now available.
The first choice that you have is to select the type of ‘Stitch’ that the programme has performed, the programme started with the automatic options, analysed the panorama and then decided the best way to stitch the images together. The screenshot shows the other options that the programme could have used and should you want to select one of the other options then the panorama will be automatically re-created with these settings.
The next option available is to crop the image. The image itself is displayed with the crop marks around it and you can re-size the image using the grab handles around the image or select specific sizes by typing into the dialog box. At the bottom of the dialog box the actual image size in pixels is displayed.
The export option allows the changing of image from the default JPEG type to those shown in the screen shot. Scaling and image size can also be adjusted as well as JPEG quality.
The final thing to decide is what you want to do with your panorama image. The ‘Export to disk’ option saves the resulting panorama to your local disk drive. The ‘Publish to web’ option allows you to publish the full sized panorama to the Microsoft Photosynth website, should you select this option then you need the Photosynth software installed on your computer and an account to upload the image to. A nice thing here with ICE if it finds the software is not installed it offers to install it for you and then offers to create an account all without losing your panorama.
Finally there is the information screen that tells you various information about your panorama image.
This is the panorama that that you have seen through the tutorial and a larger version is on my 500px gallery.
If you shoot panoramas either occasionally or regularly I can certainly recommend this programme to you.