360 Photos: A Great Way to Bring Your Business to Life Online?
Why 360 photography? Let’s explore the power of 360 photos and videos, take a look at the equipment you’ll need and review some essential apps.
Read on for a one-stop overview of this unavoidable advance in photo and video technology.
- Four Types of Panorama Photos
- What Kind of Camera Do You Need to Go 360
- Specific Cameras Recommended by Google
- How to: Tips and Tricks to Shoot 360 Photos and Videos
- More Advanced Equipment and Tools
- 360 Photo Apps for Smartphones
- How Can You Use 360 Photos and Videos to the Benefit of Your Business?
- Why Are 360 Pictures Important to Your Business?
- Google and 360 Photos
- SEO and 360 Photos
- Introducing TourDash
- Where Can You Share 360 Photos?
- How to share 360 photos and Videos on Different Social Media Platforms?
- The Top 10 Coolest Business Views
- 360 Photography in a Nutshell
Getting Started with 360 Photography
One simple reason to explore 360 photos and videos? 360 gives your audience a more ‘complete’ view and, with the increasing popularity of smartphones, they have more ways to enjoy your 360 content.
Ever since Facebook, the biggest social media platform, began to promote 360 photos, the concept has been rapidly spreading. Simple apps allow anyone to shoot, hare and view 360 content.
What Are 360 Photos and Videos?
According to TechTarget, a 360 photo is “a controllable panoramic image that surrounds the original point from which the shot was taken. 360-degree photos simulate being in the shoes of a photographer and looking around to the left, right, up and down as desired as well as sometimes zooming.
“The viewer clicks any point on the image to drag it in the desired direction.”
So, how exactly does 360 photography work? An number of segmented panoramic photos are taken and then stitched together to form a full circle surrounding the centre-point. The right application will care of stitching those pictures together.
For example, one recommended application is Hugin. The application is free and does a great job of collecting the photos together into onto 360 photo showing every angle. Meanwhile, some digital cameras can do the stitching process internally.
There are four types of panorama photo, each type has its own properties features so your own choice should be based on the purpose of your photo and the environment you want to shoot.
This is the most basic one. Partial panoramas follow the technique of stitching regular photos side-by-side to form one picture with a wider view.
Cylindrical panoramas also follow the same technique of “stitching,” yet they are different from partial panoramas in that you need to make sure the first and the last photos overlap. These panoramas cover 360-degrees around but not up and down.
Spherical panoramas are those which capture the full 360-view in addition to up and down. The photographer and the tripod do not appear in the picture frame.
Stereoscopic panoramas have different images taken simultaneously with the lenses apart, to give an impression of 3D.
Like most photography, capturing 360 photos can be done using any basic camera. Smartphones work well for everyday use, and they are user friendly, however exceptional photos need special equipment.
For commercial use, you might need a high quality digital camera with at least 15 mega pixels. Professional photographers recommend using a DSLR camera with a fisheye lens.
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Shooting 360 photos and videos is simple! However, some things to watch out for…
What Should Not Appear in a Picture
Firstly, remember that 360 photos will cover ALL the surroundings! That includes you (the photographer) and the tripod. Make sure that these do not appear in your photo. Ie, keep in mind that you will have to stand behind the camera at all times.
That will require you to move and change your position as the camera moves. Of course, you will find it way more comfortable to use a fish-eye lens since it requires a minimal movement on the photographer’s behalf. A smartphone camera on the other hand, will mean you have to be more flexible and move a lot while taking shots.
Meanwhile, 360 videos are more challenging because, unlike photos, you will not be able to pause and change your position with every shot.
Secondly, you will need to make sure that your camera is steady while rotating. If you are not using a tripod, pay attention to keeping your hand steady. This is especially important while shooting 360 videos.
Thirdly, 360 photos are either two cameras attached or a number of photos stitched together. Therefore, a “parallax effect” occurs sometimes. A parallax effect is a difference or a displacement in the positioning of two neighbouring shots. You should watch out for the gap between the photos and make sure they all join cleanly.
Fourthly, while capturing a shot, always think of its placement. A mesmerising view is great, but the picture also needs to look good everywhere. For example, if you find a great view to capture, yet the other surrounding sides aren’t as appealing, then maybe a regular photo would do just as well.
Last but not least, most serious photographers suggest that you should take 360 photos in RAW format with the camera in manual mode. This ensures the best possible quality for your pictures.
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More Advanced Equipment and Tools
A Small and Stable Tripod
360 photographers usually recommend a small and stable tripod to achieve high quality pictures. As mentioned earlier, stability is crucial during shooting 360 photos. For that reason, a tripod becomes a must to capture the moment easily and more efficiently.
Also, a small tripod is recommended because it is much easier to hide than a large sized one. A tripod also gives an extra height to your camera which is usually a good thing.
This is another tool to achieve stability. A remote switch is specifically useful while shooting 360 videos. You can control all the movements of your camera or pause without even having to touch your camera.
Paid Applications for Stitching 360 Photos
PTGui: PTGui is a really nice program for stitching panoramas. It is fast, automatic, and powerful. The application is user friendly and it offers several packages that suit the needs of different types of users.
Kolor: Kolor is a great stitching software especially for creating virtual tours and 360 videos. Huge names such as DreamWorks and Apple have used Kolor. Their website is also rich with information and tips about creating 360 tours and videos.
Don’t have the budget for advanced 360 gadgets? Don’t worry: there are several mobile applications you’ll want to try…
Sphere is an outstanding, free application specially designed for 360 photos and virtual tours. Users can capture 360 spherical images and share them right away through the app. It also works as a platform for sharing 360 photos. Since the app is like a community of photographers, users can follow their favourite photographers and get their latest shots on the newsfeed.
Cycloramic is a paid app mavailable for Apple users only. There are multiple of special options: firstly, it is fast. Taking a 360 degree panorama does not take more than 10 seconds, while a 180 degree panorama takes only 5! Secondly, it has a capacity for high resolution images, up to 42 Megapixels. Last but not least, Cycloramic offers a hands-free mode which allows an automatic phone rotation covering the whole 360 degrees. All you need to do is place your phone on a smooth surface.
Panorama 360 is among the most popular 360 photo apps available on Google Play and the App Store. Why is it popular? It is user-friendly and free. With a click of a button, users can move around, capture the view, and voila! Users can also share their photos on different social media channels via Panorama 360. The application offers more features such as HD Capture, Watermark Remove, and Dropbox Sync. Of course, users can choose to purchase these additional features or settle for the basic set of features.
If your business depends has an actual “space” or location to promote, a virtual tour is an essential consideration. If a photo is worth a thousand words, a 360 photo is worth even more!
Many businesses can benefit from showing off their internal design and architecture, such businesses include property sales, interior designing, hotels, fashion, art, restaurants, cafes, stores, co-working spaces, or basically any business where physical location is a vital part of the service or product provided.
Tourism is a perfect example, too: since tourism depends on attracting tourists to jaw-dropping locations, virtual tours are a great way to tempt potential visitors to make a booking.
Expand on Social Media
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say social media has changed the marketing industry forever. Although 360 photos have been around for about a century, they reached a revival when Facebook began to heavily promote the technology.
Why is this good for businesses? Well, showing off your product from different angles in a gallery of photos is much less engaging than showing the same product in one single 360 photo. A 360 degree dimension lets your customer step ‘into’ the image and have control over the view.
Smartphones in particular mimic the exact action of having a product in your hand, bearing in mind that smart phone users represent more than 50% of online shoppers. If you haven’t included 360 photos and videos in your social media strategy yet, you should reconsider it. It has zero or very little additional cost and will catch the eye of your potential buyers.
Make the Most of SEO
Use 360 images as SEO techniques
In addition to social media, search engines will reward you for including 360 photos. Later in this article, we’ll look at how Google responds to 360 photos and Google’s features for 360 photos.
According to aardvark360: “Virtual tours increase page views by 40% and keeps visitors on-site for three times longer.”
360 technology provides something “extra” to the audience, and therefore your audience are more likely to choose your products if they watch 360 photos or videos of them and search engines are likely to look positively on the fact that you have made them available for searchers.
Over the last twenty years, photos have become much easier for businesses to use thanks to digital cameras and smartphones. With this came a string of apps to edit and enhance images.
This means that, very soon, people realised that most of the photos they see, especially commercial ones, are edited, modified, and may even be fake. Some industries in particular, such as the fashion and make-up industries, for taking things too far. A 360 image, however, has more credibility.
When your business provides a 360 photo experience, you’re being honest about your product or your location. Consumers appreciate transparency and will credit your company for having the courage to take them behind the scenes.
Engage Your Audience
Interesting visual content is the best way to capture the attention of your viewers. Therefore, people are always curious to watch 360 photos because they provide an extra dimension of detail they can enjoy. In addition, combining content marketing with 360 photos can win great results.
After all, if you can introduce useful, yet entertaining, visual content, you’ll create a viewer who wants to see more from your business.
Winning exposure from Google is one of the main reasons why 360 photos are important to your business. In fact, Google has designed special features and applications for 360 photos. All these applications can improve your SEO and increase your web traffic.
What is Google Street View?
To use TechTarget’s definition “Google Street View is a feature of Google Maps that enables users to view and navigate through 360 degree horisontal and 290 degree vertical panoramic street level images of various cities around the world.
“The Street View feature can be used to take virtual walks, explore landmarks or find shops, restaurants and hotels.”
360 panoramas uploaded on the application come from two sources: the first source is from users uploading 360 photos, whether businesses or individuals. The second source relates to pictures taken by Google’s “embedded” cars moving in cities which capture everything they see in 360 degree pictures. The latter is only available in some specific countries.
By submitting a 360 shot of your business on Google My Business, you are making it way easier for searchers to find you. After all, 55% of UK’s adults regularly use Google Street View. In the United States, the 360 virtual tour is already considered an essential part of the business, akin to having a website, and the UK is catching up fast. This shows how 360 photos are becoming an essential part of introducing your company to the world.
All the photos you submit through Google My Business will be merged with Street View and Google Maps.
What Is Google Business View?
Google Business View is an indoor version of Google Street View. It deals with indoor mapping, the same way Google maps deals with streets. As long as there are no privacy issues, anyone can share images of the insides of a building.
Larger buildings usually use Google Business View in order to find their way.
This less popular Google tool is a great way to market your business. Whenever people find you on Google SERPs, they can click “see inside” and find a virtual 360 tour of how your business looks like. If your business’s physical space is cosy, inviting and colourful you’ll be showing off a welcoming interior to the world.
How Can You Upload 360 Panoramas to Google Street View?
As previously mentioned, photos on Google Maps and Google Street View come from two sources: these are from Google itself or from other contributors. Google has its own wandering cars which have cameras that can record whatever they see. In order to make sure no privacy policies are violated during the process, faces of people or inappropriate surroundings are always blurred. The second source refers to anyone who wants to add 360 photos or virtual tours on Google. However, to help maintain quality Google created the Trusted Photographer scheme.
What Is a Google Trusted Photographer?
Every wondered why Street View photos tend to look so good?
This is because most taken by professional photographers accredited by Google. Photographers apply to be a part of Google’s trusted photographers and Google grants them access to upload 360 Street View photos and business virtual tours.
Business owners, individuals, or organisations who wish to have their photos featured on Google Maps and Street View should hire a Google Trusted Photographer to help them. In addition, Google has a list of its accredited photographers where you can easily find photographers in your area.
The significance of Google has become too huge to ignore if you own or run a business: ranking as high as possible means being seen by as many people as possible!
This, of course, has made competition intense. Using all the tools at your disposal can help show Google that you offer a varied, useful and updated end produce for searchers.
If your competitors haven’t been using 360 and virtual tours there’s an ‘open goal’ for your company.
Increase Local Exposure
Most businesses, startups in particular, make a simple mistake when they overlook location while setting up an SEO strategy based on their target audience. Your target audience do not only search for products by their brand name, they search for products or services using location too. For example, if someone is looking for a gym, he/she will most likely search with location in order not to waste a lot of time.
The closer you are to your target audience’s location, the better. Just think: if you are the only local business in your niche providing immersive 360 photos or a virtual tour, then you’ll be grabbing the attention of local shoppers more likely to buy from your business.
TourDash is an exciting software application endorsed by Google.
The application offers multiple features and additions to enhance virtual tours and 360 photos and make them more effiective. TourDash allows business owners to embed their 360 panoramas on their website AND add extra layer to your 360 photos.
These allowing you to add navigation drop-down menus which – for example – take your viewer to the location you are viewing in the tour. TourDash also gives you a chance to enhance the experience by adding ‘hotspots’ to direct your audience towards the most interesting spots inside your location.
In addition, you can add clickable links to 360 photos. This means that, while viewers are taking a tour, they can also click on objects and be taken to another page where they purchase your product, or reserve your service. Imagine you own a restaurant, and while you familiarise your audience with your physical space, they can actually click on a specific table in order to reserve it!
How Can You Get TourDash?
Of course, you need to first create a virtual tour or 360 photos via Google Trusted Photographer. If you have already completed this step, Google also offers a list of trusted TourDash resellers.
TourDash is provided as a subscription-based service. There are three different packages that you can choose from when it comes to pricing: silver, gold, and platinum. Each one offers its own specific options allowing you to choose whichever is best.
There are a large number of platforms where you can share 360 images, react with other people’s photos, and exchange experience and tips with friends. Of course, the most popular communities can be found social media channels.
Other than social media, there are other applications, blogs, and websites, specially designed for creating a community of 360 photographers and enthusiasts. For instance, 360Cities and Kuula are two well-known websites where you can find the best and most creative virtual or 360 degree content. The two websites engage people from all over the world and build a multi-cultural space for sharing creative 360 photos.
Another interesting application where you can create and share 360 panoramas as well as interact with others is Roundme. All these online sites can give you ideas, tips, inspiration and teach you how to create immersive 360 photos.
The following steps are taken from Facebook’s easy guide to getting started with 360 photos. It includes the exact steps to upload 360 images on your business page. Keep in mind that Facebook’s mobile application allows you to take 360 panoramas right away. However, if you prefer to use another application for that mission, make sure that Facebook supports that app in order to be able to upload it whether you are using iOS or Android.
- Click ‘Photo/Video’ at the top of your page’s timeline
- Click ‘Upload Photos/Videos’
- Select a photo
- Share it
- Look around in your photo by clicking and dragging
- Tap on the ‘Publish’ button at the top of your page’s timeline
- Select ‘Photo/Video’
- Select a photo
- Share it
- Look around in your photo by moving your phone or by dragging your finger
- Tap on the photo to view it in full screen
Luckily, YouTube, the most popular video sharing website, supports 360 videos. Meanwhile, there are many 360 degree cameras which are compatible with YouTube.
YouTube supports some stitching applications mentioned earlier such as Kolor and Autopano. In addition, keep in mind that your video must include specific metadata in order to be identified as a 360 video by YouTube. You will find below YouTube’s instructions to make sure you are adding metadata the right way.
- Download the 360° Video Metadata app for Mac or Windows
- Un-zip the file, then open the 360 Video Metadata app. If you’re on a Mac, you may need to right-click the app and then click ‘Open’
- Select the video file
- Select the checkbox for Spherical and click ‘Save as’. Do not select the ‘3D Top-bottom’ checkbox. For more information, refer to upload instructions for virtual reality videos
- Enter a name for the file that will be created.
- Save the file. A new file will be created automatically in the same location as the original file
- Upload the new file to YouTube
- Wait for the 360° effect to process. This may take up to an hour
This part of our article can give you an insight about how other businesses are using 360 efficiently.
Chataigner Yves is a Parisian cheese shop! People can see that your shop welcoming and organised. This example shows how potential customers can be given a great impression before they visit.
As the name implies, Toy Joy is a toy store in Texas. Since it targets a young audience, making the best use of every possible visual technology is a great decision.
Sarastro is a restaurant in London with another great reminder why owners of similar businesses such as restaurants, cafes, gyms, showrooms should give customers glimpse of what they should expect. This is exactly what we can see in this perfect 360 shot; all the details.
Who would have thought that anyone in the world would able to take a tour around a private Emirati aeroplane? Tourists like to sample the places, including means of transport! – they will visit to know exactly what to expect during their trip. Why would someone book a hotel room with very few opportunities to preview what’s on offer compared to a room with a clear, interactive 360 view?
Ultimately: why should you include 360 shots in your marketing strategy? We’ve explored why 360 content can be so effective and the tools you can use to create 360 photos and videos.