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How I Made a 1,474-Megapixel Photo During President Obama’s Inaugural Address

January 22, 2009 by David Bergman



I covered my first inauguration and what an inauguration it was.

Barack Obama became the 44th President of the United States in a ceremony on the west front of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, DC.

Before Tuesday, I had photographed five presidents and covered big events including the Olympics, the Super Bowl, and concerts like Live 8 and Live Earth.

But this one was the biggest.

It deserved a big photo.

I made a panoramic image showing the nearly two million people who watched President Obama’s inaugural address. To do so, I clamped a Gigapan Imager to the railing on the north media platform about six feet from my photo position. The Gigapan is a robotic camera mount that allows me to take multiple images and stitch them together, creating a massive image file.

My final photo is made up of 220 Canon G10 images and the file is 59,783 X 24,658 pixels or 1,474 megapixels. It took more than six and a half hours for the Gigapan software to put together all of the images on my Macbook Pro and the completed TIF file is almost 2 gigabytes.

Use the controls to zoom and pan around the photo. You can also double click to zoom in and double click again to get even closer.

(If you’re reading this via email or RSS, you may not see the embedded flash player above. Click here to view it on my blog. Additionally, you can view the panorama full screen or on the Gigapan site.)

Since people move around slightly as the photos are taken, there are a few small glitches in the image. The software did a fantastic job, however, and there is amazing detail when you zoom all the way in.

I’ve only just started to explore the photo myself, but I found Yo-Yo Ma taking a picture with his iPhone.

If there’s enough interest, I might make the image available as a large print. I’ll write another post in the next few days showing some of the more traditional photos I shot, but they’re only a “measly” 12-megapixels each.


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  • By Illah Nourbakhsh on January 22, 2009

    Hi David,

    Outstanding! Question: may we curate this to the front-page of gigapan.org for a few days? It would be an honor for us to feature this Gigapan.

  • By Dawn on January 22, 2009

    WOW!!!!! – this is beautiful and just amazing!

  • By Maryellen McGrath on January 22, 2009

    David…I AM SPEECHLESS!!!  This is CRAZY cool!  My only problem is, I can’t pick me out because the photographer all the way to the right of the image is blocking me in the crowd.

    Anyway- SENSATIONAL and mind blowing at the same time!

  • By Happy on January 22, 2009

    Too cool. If you’re making posters, I’m buying a few.

  • By Anonymous on January 22, 2009

    If you could somehow manage to make and sell a seamless 194″x80″ print of this available for sale (about 300dpi), I could imagine a lot of walls covered with this even if the print cost $500.

  • By Nikita on January 22, 2009

    phenomenal perspective

    hail the beholder

    and the resultant bamboozlement in the name of technology : )

  • By Jennifer W on January 22, 2009

    Exceptional picture.
    It was like “Where’s Waldo” to find YoYo Ma — but I did. 
    Thanks for sharing this with us!!

  • By Dirkbag on January 22, 2009

    Wow – as a conservative who wasn’t totally thrilled with Tuesday, you personally gave me a way to really enjoy this.  Wow. The detail throughout the image is spectacular. I thank you for this, truly!

  • By John on January 22, 2009

    Hope you don’t mind a little more exposer but I posted your story as a news item on the Canadian news photographers site with full credit and links back to your site.
    Check it out http://npac.ca/

  • By Joe Morahan on January 22, 2009

    Very moving!!!  This is the best shot I have seen yet and I dont know that anything will beat this-
    BRAVO!!!  Way to take the risk-

  • By Jesse Friedman on January 22, 2009

    5 points to whoever finds the magical floating hat. Hint… its behind Obama somewhere.

  • By Coburn on January 22, 2009

    David – I thought this was so cool I added a link to it from our NPR photo blog.
    We had hoped to cover the inauguration with a Gigapan too, so I’m glad you were able to do it!

  • By Patti B on January 22, 2009

    Wow!  Thank you!  That is amazing.  I thought I knew a little bit about shooting panoramas, but I feel like a total piker now.

  • By Ginny D’Ercole on January 22, 2009

    This is fantastic!  After numerous attempts, we found ourselves.  We would love to buy a large photo if you decide to sell them.  Not being technologically savy, I don’t know how you did it, but I’m glad you did.  Thanks so much.

  • By Janet on January 22, 2009

    Great accomplishment!!!  I will be studying this photo for quite sometime.  Thank you for posting.

  • By John Farkas on January 22, 2009

    You were very skilled to capture such a beautiful image.  I would love to know what your plans are to distribute this image.  Please let me know if you are looking for partner to print this for distribution.
    A very important record of an historic day.  Thanks.

  • By Tom on January 22, 2009


  • By Tom on January 22, 2009


  • By Karsten on January 22, 2009

    Effing Amazing!

  • By Dorothy Murphy on January 22, 2009

    This is an absolutely breathtaking photo.  I would DEFINITELY like to purchase large prints and am really hoping they become available.  NICELY DONE, Mr. Bergman!

  • By Barbara Zimonick on January 22, 2009

    Beautiful Dave! I’ve been following your blog for a while now and always admire what you’ve shown us but this is the big prize. I’m a fan of Obama and a fan of Dave Bergman. Cheers from Cananda.

  • By Scott Lucas on January 22, 2009

    Absolutly awesome! And fun to pan and zoom. Thanks for sharing.

  • By Chris on January 22, 2009

    Absolutely amazing.  I found a certain hip-hop and clothing mogul in the first 30 seconds. I’ll be staring at this picture all night. Brilliant.

  • By Jose Castillo on January 22, 2009

    SCOTUS Honroable Thomas is Sleeping!!


  • By Mike Cunningham on January 22, 2009

    Unbelievable!  I agree… it’s fun to pan and zoom and look at all the reactions.  One question: some of the military guys’ faces looked warped like they had turned during consecutive shots but those were the only ones that I could see up behind Obama that were out of focus or distorted. Any reason?

  • By Vance on January 22, 2009

    Is it just me, or is Justice Clarence Thomas asleep?

  • By Jim Bumgardner on January 22, 2009

    Oh cool, I just spotted Obiwan Kenobi 5 rows behind the sleeping/praying/blinking Justice Thomas!

  • By Takamori on January 22, 2009

    What license have you used for this photo.  Because if you don’t mind putting it under a Creative Commons (or similar freely distributable) you should consider making it available via Bittorrent, archive.org, or someplace else as a single image file.

    Thanks for capturing this moment in such a grand way.

  • By Dan on January 23, 2009

    The man sitting behind the woman with the red scarf who is behind Obama in the photo has FOUR EYES!

  • By Lou Perryman on January 23, 2009

    Absolutely stunning piece of history. I had found Yo-Yo Ma, but was so pleased to have even found him and the other members of the quartet that I didn’t zoom in far enough to notice the iPhone! Amazing. Just amazing.
    Can anyone tell me who the white man sitting right in front of The Supremes is? He is just to our left of President Obama. Is it George Soros? Is it Obi Wan Kenobi?
    Pretty hilarious all of them with their hats on when they know they are off camera (so to speak). I wish the Prez had been wearing one. Cheney has one just like Abramoff does/did and I have also. A Borsalino. Whole lotsa fedoras. Thanks a lot!

  • By SagaciousT on January 23, 2009

    This is a magnificent image.  I’m definitely gonna blog about this.  Admittedly, I did have some fun finding floating heads or legs with no body (another five points for finding that one!).  I probably could never afford a print of this, but make it available for those who can!

  • By Ron Scheffler on January 23, 2009

    Wow, very impressive! I wouldn’t have expected that you’d get such an overall clear, high resolution result from a G10, even if it’s 220 source files, and would have assumed the need for a DSLR instead. It was a lot of fun to scan the photo positions and see all the remote cameras (some in interesting places) and tight quarters for the photographers. I can’t imagine the amount of individual prep work that went into all of those setups.
    Jesse: I found the floating hat. Can you find Obi-Wan Kenobi? Hint, he’s not far away from the hat…

  • By Adam Nollmeyer on January 23, 2009

    David, Wow, that’s crazy cool! Found this via twitter and then I sent this link to my twitter people and they loved it too. Glad to find your blog too. 
    Adam in Phoenix


  • By Robert J. Berger on January 23, 2009

    Ok, now if we could click on each person and find out who they are, their LinkedIn and Facebook links, we would be done :-

  • By Mollena on January 23, 2009

    Out-freaking-standing, Sir!

  • By Farrhad A on January 23, 2009

    David, this work of yours is brilliant!!!!

    Keep it up :

  • By Janos on January 23, 2009


    Digg it now. It deserves it!


  • By Charlotte on January 23, 2009

    Hi from across the pond – David, this is incredible! I’ve linked to your picture from our magazine’s website as your work should be seen by everyone. The detail is great – I particularly love the press pit directly opposite where you were standing :

  • By Babatunde Adeyemi on January 23, 2009

    I’m speechless…Nice work David

  • By Will on January 23, 2009

    The gal in the black hat on the left is listening to her iPod…

  • By Elise on January 23, 2009

    Wow…. That is a wonderful piece of art

  • By Lauri on January 23, 2009

    Excellent picture! Really cool stuff.

  • By Alex on January 23, 2009

    Just incredible. Consider my mind well and truly blown.

  • By WildBill on January 23, 2009

    Clarence Thomas looks like he’s sound asleep.

  • By pingin on January 23, 2009

    That is astounding…! Thank you, David.

  • By Anon on January 23, 2009

    So… Where’s wally?

  • By Andi Farr on January 23, 2009

    Wow. Great photo – I’ve never heard of this sort of technique being used on this scale. I love the games that are already getting called in the comments above. Kind of like the game in the Dawn of the Dead remake. Find Burt Reynolds next!
    Congrats, hope you sell lots of these :

  • By Chantale on January 23, 2009

    I actually found my daughter and I in this photo!  Thank you so much for posting.

  • By Roy Maynard on January 23, 2009

    Wow, this is amazing. I would be willing to buy a large print. Let us know.

  • By Steve on January 23, 2009

    Absolutely brilliant!  A moment captured in time.  An invaluable piece of history saved for posterity.  Thank you so much!

  • By Tobias on January 23, 2009

    Just great work – needs alot of time to load images, but great technique!

  • By Mark on January 23, 2009

    Now that’s impressive!

  • By JustAGuy on January 23, 2009

    check this link http://www.korben.info/comment-integrer-une-image-haute-resolution-dans-votre-site-en-utilisant-google-map.html
    U can use the google map systeme for any pic. Might works better

  • By Jhnny Bean on January 23, 2009

    Wow, truly amazing stuff. I like it.


  • By Reyn on January 23, 2009

    Very very very clever idea! And such an awesome photo.  What a monster!

  • By Leslie on January 23, 2009

    Brilliant David!

    Hope to hear more about the pano process when we see you next week.

  • By Bubbles on January 23, 2009

    hahaha…Aretha Franklin has a double mouth/chin! And a guy to her left has two heads/foreheads.  Who cares if they’re slight errors in the processing…the little bits of amusement are great!
    Very cool pic; definitely let us know if you ever put posters of it up for sale!

  • By Dan Aunspach on January 23, 2009

    The detail of this photo is astounding!  I was able to zoom in on the horn section of the Marine Corps Band and read the sheet music!  I hope our new president requests a copy for his presidential library; it is a keepsake and historical piece worthy of such an honor.  You did a truly wonderful job!  Thank you for sharing this amazing work.

  • By Sherry on January 23, 2009

    I desparately wish that someone in the crowd would have dressed up as “Where’s Waldo”.  That would have just charmed my socks off.  :
    Amazing picture, though!

  • By Jesse on January 23, 2009

    This is excellent. Great job. I’ve never seen anything like it!

  • By Marc Ziss on January 23, 2009

    Excellent photo would love to see it in Deep Zoom; because it does a great job of transitioning zoom levels.

  • By Yacom on January 23, 2009

    Denzel Washington can be seen standing on the lower floor (blue hat).

    Spielberg, Oprah and some other billionaires may be found in this crowd.

  • By ghetto chris on January 23, 2009

    well the gigapan browsing kindof sucks, you’d be the man to torrent the original.  I love nasa for the fact they give the hubble photos away full res free without making you zoom in through some slow lame web interface.

  • By Timothy on January 23, 2009

    Really amazing work. Well done. And much appreciated. Thank you!

  • By SEX on January 23, 2009


  • By pepito grillo on January 23, 2009

    Junto a la torre de las cámaras,en la parte inferior,hay unas piernas que andan sin el resto del cuerpo.

  • By Michael Chaney on January 23, 2009

    Interesting artifact from stitching – directly above Obama is a lady with red hair and a red scarf.  Immediately to the left of her, in the row behind her, is a guy whose face is cut in two, he’s looking down and straight ahead at the same time.

  • By Peter on January 23, 2009

    You are Da Man. You should send this to cannon maybe you will get you equipment for free from now on.
    GigaPan Should put you on the short list for the DSLR version of the gigapan.
    One question Have you considered running the starting images through DXO optics pro first. It has a G10 module. DXO will correct a lot of the lens distortion and do a lot of noise correction automatically just with a few clicks.

  • By Gareth W. on January 23, 2009

    Awesome work!!!  One glitch I did notice was Aretha Franklin and the guy sitting in front of her.  He has no head!!!

  • By Elliott CArter on January 23, 2009

    Awesome picture! Please let me know if and when you decide to publish a print of this!

  • By booshpilot on January 23, 2009

    What’s that chick doing in a bikini in 20 degree weather–bottom right corner next to the gay couple?

  • By Russell on January 23, 2009

    David I would be happy to do posters of this image. I would even do them with a black frame and mailed out for the right price. Contact me and we could work out some details on doing this.

  • By Matthew Chaboud on January 23, 2009

    I love that there’s a dude sitting in the presidential crowd with a Green Bay Packers hat.  Little did he know that he’d be immortalized with it.
    Great shot(s).

  • By Bill Jacobson on January 23, 2009

    You should enable tagging on this photo somewhere. Would be cool to let people begin to identify audience members by name (at least the closer ones), and point out things like the snipers in the background. :-

  • By sarah M on January 23, 2009

    Wow this is really impressive. It is really cool how you can zoom in and see each individual person. You should sell this as a massive print.

  • By jex on January 23, 2009

    can you spot the sniper team?

  • By pn.md on January 23, 2009

    You’ve officially raised the bar for expansive photojournalistic shots. It’s shots like these that changes the game for everyone. I’m sure your blog is going to blow up since Gizmodo featured it. Instant overnight fame, enjoy!

  • By Muza on January 23, 2009

    Hi image has a huge dof, marvelous work.

    A few technical questions:
    1) what focal length did you set on the camera?

    2) what settings did you use on the camera?

    3) any chance you will be revealing some EXIF for some regions?
    Thanks in advance,


  • By Muza on January 23, 2009


    That was my question as well. Can’t see any snipers or spotter. Secret Service indeed did a great job.

  • By Coleton on January 23, 2009

    crazy detail awesome job

  • By Nathan on January 23, 2009

    OK I give up. Where’s Yo Yo Ma?

  • By Bert on January 23, 2009

    There is a guy in a black robe (next to a guy with a yellowish jacket) standing on the leftmost side of the photographers tribune… he kinda looks like stephen spielberg.

  • By Niki on January 23, 2009

    AMAZING!!!!! Thanx for your hard work!! Its SPECTACULAR to say the least!!!

  • By Matt on January 23, 2009

    There is a face touch-up needed to the Northeast of George W. The man has 4 eyes!

  • By pam05 on January 23, 2009

    OMG how do I get a copy of this?  Awesome!!!

  • By Leo on January 23, 2009

    Hay errores en la foto ejemplo cuando acercas la foto a los acompañantes q estan atras de obama se ven con sus caras corridas, esto no es solo atras de obama si no q en casi todo los cuadros de la foto

  • By KRAPPS on January 23, 2009

    Wow – this is just sick … better be careful not to pick your nose in public these days ;

  • By Rich on January 23, 2009

    WOW!  This is freaking AWESOME!!!!  I could almost make out the model of trumpet some of the band members were using.  YOU ROCK!!!!

  • By LuXo on January 23, 2009

    Great Picture Men…. awesome job.. my personal congratulations… its a really good pic.

  • By Licia on January 23, 2009

    Wally is the invisible man in the LF corner…pan over 3 or 4 frames. Cool. Is this the only illusion?

  • By jeffhtg on January 23, 2009

    Thats an amazing photograph – I would definatley buy a hardcopy if you go to print it!

    Can you use a pro DSLR with the gigapan? I can only imagine what a 21mpx+ cam would result in on that thing :

  • By Drvilla on January 23, 2009

    Excellent photography … but not everything is perfect, reviewing with the zoom I noticed a small detail … there is a strange man .. that even some would say it is a ghost … it is rare that people around you more of what went well.

    Here the picture and let them draw their own conclusions:


    Note: sorry for the traduction, my language is spanish

  • By Scott on January 23, 2009

    i found a rifle in a mans hand covered by a coat 9 rows behind obama

  • By H.A.D. on January 23, 2009

    Very cool… but the stitching could use some work, because I noticed some of the pics are chopped up on the edges creating anomalies.
    Nice work!!!!!

  • By Kevin on January 23, 2009

    I’m just amazed with the amount of detail captured in this pano! Fantastic shot…well worth the 6+ hrs of computing time to put it together!

  • By xx on January 23, 2009

    wtf happen 4 seat beahind dickcheny? did her hat cut his head off???

  • By Claudio on January 23, 2009

    I found Wally!!!!! He is seated rigth behind the sound tower taking a picture…

    The picture is amazing!

  • By xx on January 23, 2009

    hmm im guessin thats where 2 pictures came together cause i see a couple heads cutoff following tha line

  • By Schniffy on January 23, 2009

    I just sent a link to everybody I could think of.  Awesome, awesome shot.  I was there but we were all the way back by the monument.  Too bad I wasn’t in this. Thanks for posting this.

  • By Bill on January 23, 2009

    Remarkable that security let you bring the Gigapan in.  I would think that they wouldn’t know what to make of it.

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