Thursday, 24 February 2011

Top 10 360° photography tips

These are my Top 10 tips on how to get the best 360° photography results.Take a look at my website for a couple of examples. Just scroll to the bottom of my gallery page and click on the boot or the wig.

1 - Find out how to get the degree° symbol from your keyboard.
It looks far more professional to have 360° on your blog or website rather than 360degree. This is easy.      
The short cut is to hold down the ALT key and type 248 and you will get...   °

2 - Block out all natural light.
Don't get me wrong, I am the biggest fan of natural light, but when you need consistency through 24 images, natural light is no good because it is constantly changing. You don't necessarily need to block it out entirely, just make sure your flash is over powering it by at least 4 stops.  

3 - Find something that rotates.
Do not rotate your object by hand. This will result in an uneven, messy 360° animation. Find something that spins. If you are working to a tight budget, I highly recommend a Lazy Susan rotating chopping board. You can pick these up for less than £10.

4 - Find the centre.
Grab a tape measure, do some maths, do whatever it takes to find the exact centre of your rotating surface. If your object is off centre, your 360° image will move like a massive egg and nobody wants to move like a massive egg.

5 - Mark the edge of your rotating surface.
Make evenly spaced markings around the edge of your spinning board, much similar to a clock face. On mine I have 48 marks. Doing this will ensure that every image which makes up your animation will be spaced the same, thus giving a smooth rotation.

6 - Never shoot less than 12 images. 
The more images in your rotation, the smoother it will be. Standard PAL video shoots at 25 frames per second. For a smooth animation, I recommend using this many. If you are short of time or space, try to shoot at least 12. If you can, shoot 50. This will be mega smooth. 

7 - Be careful.
If you accidentally kick your tripod, knock your lights or bang your table you will have to start all over again. You might not notice the difference when reviewing each image, however when you see them in quick succession, you will notice a glitch. 

8 - Be aware of the shape and texture of your object. 
One problem I did not see coming was how the various shapes and textures of an object would or wouldn't work  with my lighting. For example, I was shooting a boot which from the side is a lot wider than when you look at it straight on. I set up my lighting with the side of the boot facing me, it look great. Brilliant. But as I started to rotate the boot, it became a lot narrower. The boot is also made of a glossy rubber. The light started to burn out the edges of the boot, making it look terrible. In these situations, there is always a compromise. I face a similar problem with a phone. One side was matt and the other side was glossy. Just remember, you can't change your lighting halfway though so do several tests before hand and find a happy medium.

9 - Batch process
Try to do everything in-camera, however if you do need to do some post production such as adding a logo, removing a dust mark or brightening your shot, always make sure you do a batch process with all your other images. The golden rule is consistency. Everything must be identical. 

10 - Choosing the right software.
A reliable and easy to use 360° programme is Easypano Modelweaver. It is simple to use, reliable, allows you to completely customise your player and exports as Flash, QT or Applet. 

Take a look at my website for examples of 360° photography, product photography and other bits you might find helpful.