360° photography, what is it?
A 360 photo is created when the photographer takes a series of photos that go around in a complete circle, from a stationary position. These multiple images are then put/ stitched together using different softwares (such as PTGui). They are then converted into an interactive virtual tour which allows for the viewer to look anywhere they want in the scene.
What do you need to get started with 360° photography?
When you are first start out with 360 photography, it is a challenging task to find out which equipment is required. Although there is a variety of different elements of 360 photography equipment in the market, following is the list of the required gear that you should invest in:
- DSLR camera
- Fisheye lens with 180° field of view
- Shutter release cable or remote
- VR head
- Stitching Software (PTGuiand Pano2VR)
Now that you’ve got everything, one question comes to mind:
How do you take a 360 photo?
Set it up
While shooting a 360 photo, first you have to figure out where the best spot is to place the camera and to set up the tripod. The major difference with 360 photography is that, the composition varies greatly from that with traditional photography. Remember, camera placement is they key element for this kind of photography. You need to be sure of your surroundings from all angles and make sure that you choose a camera location that has good photography content on all sides. Your tripod might look silly perched on top of a couple of stones on its tripod but remember, sometimes you need to let go of perfection in order to achieve your goals
Astounding as it seems, while getting started with 360° photography, the second major step after your location is chosen, is the tripod height. Typically, at about 5’ height, the tripod provides the most possible natural viewing angle. This is because it is quite comparable to what an average person would see with their eyes if they were to be standing there.
The leveling the tripod is another point that you need to worry about. This is quite an important step so take your time and be very precise. The legs of the tripod are too be adjusted in a way that bubble is centered
After setting up all of the equipment is set up, we now move to the camera settings. As 360 photos are made up of multiple photos stitched together, it is vital that the camera settings remain the same in every shot. If this was not to happen, the photos won’t blend perfectly. This is why, it is recommended to shoot 360 photos with all of the camera settings in manual mode to avoid any auto adjustments from image to image as angle changes.
It is best to be shooting all 360 photos at an aperture of f/8. The image turns out sharp from foreground to background and provides the best quality.
It is best to adjust the shutter speed to set the exposure. This is because only ambient light is used for 360 photos as you can’t use a flash. This is because you want the lighting to remain the same from one shot to another. The shutter speed is used to control the exposure for ambient light so this is going to be the only adjustment required to set the exposure. Look through the viewfinder and until you have the correct exposure. When you think you have the correct exposure set, shoot the test shots all the way around in the circle to make sure that your choice of exposure works for all shots.
As you don’t want the white balance to change as the shots change as the camera rotates, it is best to set your white balance manually by using degrees Kelvin (K) option. For exterior photos, set the white balance to 5000-5600 K. This will get you in the right area and colour density.
Tip: Increasing this number makes the photo warmer; decreasing it will make it cooler.
Time to shoot!
The camera positioning and settings are all done, now its time you start clicking away. As you rotate the camera head, you will feel it click 90° as you rotate in a circle. These are the positions that are meant for snapping photos. Typically, using a fisheye lens, you need to take only 4 photos; at 0°, 90°, 180° and 270°. This is done in order to complete a 360° image. So first you start at 0° and take the first shot. Then y rotate to 90°, and take the second photo. Rotate again till it gets to 180°and click; then take the third photo. In the end, rotate to 270° and take the final shot.
Tip: While shooting, always make sure that you rotate the VR head clockwise and never counterclockwise. This is because rotating the head counterclockwise unscrews the VR head and that can cause possible misalignment.
Time to stitch a 360 photo
Now that shooting is done, the real deal starts. You now move into the phase of post-processing. In 360° photography, the dilemma is that the photos need to be stitched into a seamless and smooth panoramic image. This is carried out by using specialized stitching software, such as PTGui. There are many other specialized panorama stitching software apart from PTGui as well.
PTGui is quite a user-friendly and easy-to-use program that does a great job of stitching 360 photos fast and perfectly. Here is how it is done:
- Open the software in your computer.
- Click “ Load images…” and import your 4 photos.
- Click on “2. Align images…” and the software will automatically stitch and align your photos.
- Click “3. Create panorama…” to export the JPEG file.
- Now it is time to export this to a JPEG file
You have now successfully exported a stitched panoramic JPEG image. You now need to turn it into a 360° virtual tour. There are many programs that would do that for you but Pano2VR by Garden Gnome Software is quite good. The Pano2VR allows you to export your 360 file in different formats and converts that into a VR tour for you.
To getting started with this 360° photography, these are the tips you need as a beginner. One of the main reasons that this form of photography is trending is that they invoke interesting reactions by making photos look real, actually making one feel like they are there in person. The content which makes people feel involved is the kind of content people care about.