You just have to experience it yourself, what it is like to put on your VR glasses after weeks at the beach and to feel completely like you’re there again. No video or photo panorama can impress as much as that. And unlike combining single images with your mobile phone, the 360° camera captures the entire scene instantly with one shot. But the challenges are just starting here. 360° photography has its very own laws. This post will show you how to make the first steps easier.
Choosing the Right 360° Camera
360° photography is a fairly new topic in which the individual 360° camera manufacturers pursue their own strategies. While the real top dog in the field of action photography, GoPro, still places its bets on a mounting rack, which can also be obtained as a 3D print, the most widely-used 360° camera, the Ricoh Theta, has a unique rod shape. What looks unusual is actually very practical – with the Ricoh Theta you can spontaneously take pictures without your own hand taking up the majority of the image area.
For cameras which are more compact and sphere-shaped, a selfie stick, no matter how embarrassing, is your best choice. Examples in this category are, for example, the LG 360 CAM, the Samsung Gear 360 or the Nikon KeyMission 360. One of the German pioneers of 360 ° photography, the Berlin startup Panono, delivers a complete ball, which can also be thrown for recording. The price and the effort of the post production are as scalable as required. The 360 ° GoPro Omni Rack and the Panono are clearly located above the €1000 threshold. The LG 360 CAM, Samsung Gear 360, Ricoh Theta S and Nikon KeyMission 360 are priced below €500. If you like to experiment in your free time, I’d recommend the Ricoh Theta S. Good picture quality and advanced apps really make it fun to get into the world of 360° photography. For action shots, the Nikon seems to be the best choice, but despite the better resolution compared to the Ricoh Theta, the images from Nikon KeyMission are much bigger (approximately 12 MB compared to 4 MB) and are rarely actually better. Above all, the stitching, i.e. the joining up of individual images to create a larger image, should be improved in the future.
First Steps with your 360° Camera
When you’ve decided on a 360° camera, you can get started right away. Usually the camera needs to be connected to a phone or tablet and can be, once connected, controlled via an app. But especially with 360° photography, handling two devices can be a bit difficult, so it makes the most sense to trigger your shots directly from the camera’s controls. You won’t find a view-finder on your 360° camera. You don’t need a viewfinder, because there is no detail, everything is always in the picture.
Problem 1: You’re Always in the Picture
Since the 360° sphere is captured with one click, you are almost always in the picture, often completely involuntary. The wide angle of the 360° camera does all the work: all 360° cameras have a self-timer. My tip is not to be caught from behind, running away from the camera or trying to hide in a bush. Better to position yourself in the scene somehow. Either you stand uninvolved or, something which is better in most cases – you observe the actual event and point to an interesting detail with your hand, giving the viewer a little guidance in the picture. If you don’t want to be on the picture, try this trick: Position a small object, e.g. a backpack as close to the camera as possible. The wide angle creates a very large area, where you can hide behind, while you control the camera with a connected device.
Problem 2: Visible Stitching in the Image
Even if some cameras such as the Ricoh Theta S do all the work here and it can be further optimized with professional stitching tools, there remains a residual risk that stitching remains visible in your pictures. Therefore, it is best to check which area is likely to cause the least amount of trouble before recording, and position the camera accordingly.
Problem 3: You’re Always Shooting with Full Sunlight
You simply cannot prevent it, because when you take pictures outdoors, the sun will usually be in the picture. Some cameras already support HDR, but it remains a critical point for many images. Be creative here – try whether the shot is better when, for example, the sun is covered by a tree, or try shooting when the sun is lower.
Problem 4: Flash is Pointless
While the sun is always in the picture, when shooting at night a flash is useless. Professional lighting must also be completely covered, as the lamps themselves will also be visible in the picture. If you are planning night shots then you should choose a camera as light sensitive as possible. The Nikon KeyMission 360 delivers pretty good results.
Problem 5: Viewers Don’t Realize they’re Viewing a 360 ° Image
You actually wanted to show the Las Vegas Strip, but your friends just see a black picture. What happened? You mounted the 360° camera on a black car roof and have driven down the Las Vegas Strip. Now if someone watches the video with an iPad lying on the desk, it looks actually only black, because of the angle of view of the camera. Small stickers or a post-it can be helpful here to make clear that it is a 360° video or image they are looking at.
Problem 6: The Audience Might Just Look Away
The real fun of viewing 360° images is being able to fully explore the space captured – but this can also completely destroy the dramaturgy of a video as the viewer takes control. Unlike in standard films, the viewer is not forced to look in the direction, where the action is happening. Here, you have to develop your own style elements in order to guide the viewer, but also 360° filming is only at the beginning of its era.
Problem 7: A 360° Photo Doesn’t Fit in a Photo Album
Of course, you can print parts of a 360° image, but that just eliminates the whole 360° experience. If you don’t want to share your pictures on Facebook, Teamplace is the ideal platform for sharing 360° pictures.
360° photos and videos will also become more and more popular, thanks to the support of Facebook and Google. They follow their own laws, but if you accept the challenge, you will soon be able to impress your friends and acquaintances with unforgettable shots.