We mentioned 360 photos last November in our post about immersive storytelling. 360 photos are exactly that, photographs that capture three hundred sixty degrees of a scene; as a viewer, you can pan around in the photo to see all around.
Today we’ll discuss how you can shoot a 360 photo on your own smartphone, without the need for a special 360 camera. Here’s what you’ll need:
- A smartphone
- The Google Streetview app
- An uncrowded scene
Before we start, a few clarifications.
Google Photo Spheres
Google calls 360 photos “photo spheres,” which are actual, honest-to-God 360 photos: The viewer can look right, left and behind, up, down, and all around. Google Street View features a gallery of “photo spheres.”
Google’s 360 photos work wonderfully via the Google Cardboard VR viewer.
Facebook 360 Photos
What Facebook calls 360 photos are actually just panoramic photos, so when you see them in Facebook, you can only pan left and right and up and down but you cannot continuously pan till you arrive full circle within the photo. Here’s an example of what Facebook considers a 360 photo. This is a view of the Stone Arch Bridge from the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis:
(That’s how it will display if you share a panoramic photo via Facebook’s photo post. If, however, you take an actual 360 photograph and share that in a Facebook photo post, it should show the entire 360 view.)
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How To Shoot A 360 Photo In 5 Relatively Easy Steps
1) Download The Google Street View App
2) Find A Relatively Uncluttered Scene To Shoot
Shooting a 360 photo via the Street View app takes some time. Basically, you need to snap a handful of individual photos to capture the entire 360 degrees of the scene and then the app does the heavy lifting of stitching the pieces together to form a single photo.
Obviously, then, a scene where there is a lot of traffic or commotion is going to be nearly impossible to capture. This example of a 360 photo I took at the Minnesota State Fair will demonstrate what I mean:
Zoom in a bit and you’ll see that the guy slightly to your left in the foreground is actually the top half of some dude in a blue shirt stitched to the legs of another person who is walking in the opposite direction. What’s more, the blue guy has someone else’s left arm! Pan to your right and you’ll see a shadow image of a half-person.
The lesson here is that it’s hard to capture moving subjects when you need to take several minutes to snap all the photos needed for the 360 view.
You’ll also notice a black strip where the app failed to capture part of the scene. The app is kind of hit and miss that way. You’ll only know for sure it has captured the whole scene after it is done processing all the pieces, which can take a while.
3) Shoot The Scene
You’ve got the app. You’ve found a tranquil scene to shoot. Now you’re ready to snap your photos.
Open up your Street View app and tap the photo icon at the lower right-hand corner of your screen. From there, you can 1) Link to an external 360 camera via WiFi, 2) import existing 360 photos, or go straight to the camera.
Go straight to the camera to start shooting.
This video from Google Maps will show you how to do it. While the video was shot to demonstrate a built-in feature of Android phones, the basic functionality is the same for the Street View app.
4) Check For Quality
Now that you’ve shot your 360 photo and given the Street View app enough time to process it, go back to look and see if everything turned out the way you’d planned. Here’s a 360 photo I shot of Lake Grace, in Chaska, Minnesota, that turned out nicely:
This is where the patience part comes in. If at first you don’t succeed, well, try, try again.
5) Save & Share
Once you’ve captured a 360 view you like, save it to your phone and share it on the platforms that support 360 photos.
You can upload it directly to Google Maps from the app. After you upload them, you’ll be able to find them at your Google Photos account. They will be marked with a little 360 Photo icon in the upper right-hand corner of the thumbnail:
As mentioned above, Facebook says they support 360 photos as does Flickr.
The best thing about sharing them to any of these platforms is that you can then embed them on your site. Keep in mind, too, that countless Google Cardboard viewers have already been distributed and Facebook is likely to make a big virtual reality push with its investment in Oculus Rift, so
Keep in mind, too, that countless Google Cardboard viewers have already been distributed and Facebook is likely to make a big virtual reality push with its investment in Oculus Rift, so these 360 photos are not necessarily limited to viewing on desktop or mobile screens.
The nice thing about 360 photos is you don’t have to remember all those composition rules. Then again, where’s the artistry, right?
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