Over the years I've fooled around with panoramas. Lately I've been playing with them again, and you can see some results in this slide show. I have also been asking a few questions about panos and how they work.
Some panos are stitched images, while others are cropped single frames. Doesn't matter. What they all have in common is an aspect ratio of about 2:1 or greater. (Wide angle TVs and monitors tend to be 16:9, which is a hair less than 2:1, but there's no need to quibble.)
Panos seem to have a unique ability to grab our imagination, to move us through a scene. In this society, our eyes are trained to move from left to right, and from top to bottom. Panos greatly reduce the top-to-bottom component, and our eyes travel the length of the image. Accordingly, panoramas can create a number of effects: they can create the illusion of time passing. They can emphasize the size or beauty of vistas, or mountains, or bridges. I haven't shot these subjects, but imagine a pano of a cheetah or a snake (yes, we've all seen the famous one). The pano takes the natural characteristic of an elongated object and makes us consider it a bit at a time.
Of course, not all panos are horizontal, and you can create dazzling ones from very tall elements -- but watch out for keystoning! Keep your distance, or use a perspective correcting lens. Actually, shooting your images in portrait orientation then stitching them into a landscape is a good way to get more "headroom" in any pano.
If you're a photographer, some elements of a good pano are
1. Single main subject (true of all photography)
2. Strongly linear nature of subject (vertical OR horizontal)
3. Plenty of headroom to allow for type (for commercial panos)
4. Spectacular color, exposure, and contrast to match the spectacular presentation of your subject.
5. Access to a great printer! Panos look good on screen, but they look best in large prints.
Basic techniques for creating panos
1. Use a tripod. Make sure it is REALLY level. There are bubble levels built into many tripod heads for this purpose, as well as devices that mount on your camera. Special mounts are available which put the focal plane of the camera directly on top of the center of the center post. Expensive!
2. Shoot in about 15 degree increments (a compass helps with this) to make sure you have enough overlapping features for your stitching software to do a good job.
3. Shoot in manual mode to keep the camera from changing exposures from shot to shot.
4. If you don't use a tripod, try rotating your shoulders and not your neck from shot to shot. The idea is to put the center of rotation on the plane of the sensor, and this little trick helps you get closer.
5. You can try stitching uncorrected images, then correcting the resulting pano. This helps avoid problems with banding, notably in the sky. Or you can apply the same corrections in Camera Raw prior to stitching. I commonly expect to work on skies after the image has been stitched, regardless of which work flow I used.
Have fun, and try for the unusual!