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Everything You Need to Know to Take and Use Your Own 360-degree Photos

Everything You Need to Know to Take and Use Your Own 360-degree Photos

Would you like to use a 360-degree image in your teaching? Are you unsure of what equipment and software you will need to complete your project? This article will walk you through everything you need to know.

Is a 360-degree image the same thing as a panoramic image?

  • “Panoramic” refers to the wide or ultra-wide angled nature of the shot, either in the horizontal or vertical direction. These images are taken by a specialized camera with a wide/multiple lenses or created by stitching together multiple photos from different positions. Panoramic images can vary in width and height, or range covered. You may hear terms such as “partial panorama” or “full panorama” used to indicate how many degrees of angle are covered. A partial panorama covers less than 360-degrees in longitude around the horizon, and/or less than 180 degrees in latitude.
  • “360-degree,” or full/spherical panoramic, denotes an image that captures a complete spherical view of your surroundings; from the sky directly above you to the ground directly beneath you, every angle is captured.

What equipment can capture and render a 360-degree image?

  • A full 360-degree camera: this is arguably the easiest method for capturing a 360-degree photo. The camera will usually have multiple wide angle lenses that capture the shot at once and automatically render the whole image. For example, the Garmin VIRB 360 (which you can borrow from the Open Lab) is specifically designed to produce these types of images.
  • A “regular” (DSLR, phone, etc) camera: this entails taking multiple shots with your camera as you rotate it 360-degrees on a fixed/static tripod or surface. This method takes more effort but is suitable for those who do not want to buy or rent specialized 360-degree cameras for the job, or prefer a DSLR for specific shots. This method still produces quality 360-degree photos (provided that you use a quality camera and that you can get your whole shot before your subject moves!). For more information on creating 360 photos using this method, please visit the resources listed below:
  • How to Make 360 Tour with and Camera and Lens
  • How to Take 360 photos on ANY Camera

Best practices when taking 360-degree photos

Environment awareness

When taking 360-degree photos, be aware of your environment!

  • Choose your camera placement carefully. Make sure your camera is on a level surface and centered within the intended space as much as possible. Avoid placing your subjects near or on the stitch lines. Stitch lines are the area in which one lens’ view ends and another begins. While stitch lines can be edited in post and may even be pretreated by the camera, they may still be visible. Preview your shot if possible. As always, take multiple shots and view them before leaving the space.
  • Be mindful of objects and subjects in your shot. Are there items in the shot that shouldn’t be, and are your subjects placed correctly? Can they be removed during shooting, or will you need to remove them in post-production? If so, how can you minimize the effort it will take to remove them later?
  • Remember all of your equipment! It’s best to place any camera cases and accessories in an inconspicuous yet memorable spot. Avoid leaving any litter behind in the environment.

Camera settings

  • You may be familiar with the standard shooting controls on a regular camera, such as: film speed/ISO, white balance, color temperature, aperture, HDR, bracketing and shutter speed. The settings you need will depend on the camera in question, but there are best practices across cameras that will benefit your shoot. Visit this guide to learn more about basic camera settings and best practices.
  • While many 360-degree cameras have most or all of these basic settings, some do not and instead rely on the automatic correction function to determine these values. If your camera has a limited array of these features, you may be limited in what environments you can shoot effectively in (ex: very dark, extremely bright or irregularly lit environments).
  • If possible, shoot your panoramic photos in RAW/.dng format. This ensures that your image contains as much information as possible within the metadata and will bring out much more detail than the standard .jpeg format. It will also make editing post-shoot in software such as Lightroom or Photoshop more effective and detailed.

How can you edit your 360-degree degree images?

It is recommended that 360 photos are edited in compatible and powerful software such as Adobe Lightroom and/or Photoshop for maximum control over the elements in your picture. For information on University of Pittsburgh licensure of these applications, please visit the Software Distribution Services page. Please use the resources listed below for detailed tutorials on how to edit 360-degree in these software:

Example: in order to edit 360-degree photos, The University Center for Teaching and Learning’s Classroom Services division uses Adobe Lightroom in tandem with the Ricoh Theta Stitcher plugin for the RICOH Theta Z1 360 camera.

Best practices when editing 360-degree photos

When editing your panoramas, first identify the purpose of your image. Will this image be used to reflect true-to-life color and details, for example of a science lab? Or is this image being used to display creative or exaggerated elements?

Once you have established the constraints for editing your photo(s), you can adjust white balance, exposure, highlights, shadows and more within your photo editing software of choice.

Take note of the media limits, resolution and compression settings of the intermediary and final holding place of the image. This will ensure that quality is maintained as much as possible when moving the image(s) between applications. Always maintain the .RAW version of the original photo. If you will need to compress your image only begin this process once you have made all creative edits to your file.

Displaying 360-degree images

Many sites (ex: Facebook) have a built in feature that allows you to view 360-degree images natively. However, a great and interactive way to view 360-degree images is via a 360 Virtual Reality (VR) tour. Many VR tour software will allow you to directly embed your work via an iframe or special link within your website of choice. Classroom Services offers guidance and VR Tour creation services to accomplish this for course-related projects.

Google offers a browser-based VR Tour Creator software that you can use to build and share tours for free. Klapty, Orbix 360, and Kuula offer free versions of their VR tour building software as well.

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