Tom Pace takes incredible panoramas.
It’s not a stretch to say that Tom has taken some of the most amazing panoramas we’ve seen and we’ve enjoyed sharing several of his panoramas from the @360Panorama Twitter account, as well as feature a few in Noteworthy on the 360VERSE page. Last week, at the prompt of a comment from another 360 Panorama user, Tom crafted a blog post to share his secrets for how he creates such memorable panoramas.
Best Techniques for 360 Panorama
Getting a satisfying 360-degree photo is easy, but to add that little extra bit of quality, I’ve come up with a handful of techniques that can be used to improve the finished result.
The following are the most important techniques to solve the most significant problems I found occurring in most panoramas:
- Achieving the best camera exposure levels in the first shot
- Moving so the images blend together properly, primarily to fix broken horizons
1. Get The Best Exposure
Determining the best exposure can be a bit of a guess, but the best way to get it is aiming the camera toward the brightest point in the 360 environment for light or average environments … obviously the sun, if you’re outside, or some light wall inside, etc. In a darker environment, aim the camera at the darkest place so it compensates and the rest of the 360 view is easier to see, not all black. And then, start capturing, and quickly spin around and find any places in the environment that you really like and want to see in the panorama, and if they appear way too dark or too light, then you might want to restart, and aim the camera a bit off from whatever you aimed at initially. Then you can either assume the camera has a good initial exposure and continue to make the panorama or you can do a quick spot check again. I usually do one single test and then do the panorama.. Although, I would have done a third on Lake Louise if I had the time (I was annoying family members who were also in the canoe, requesting them to spin the boat around! haha..)
Here are two pairs of panoramas with separate light/dark versions, Lake Louise and Grotto Mountain Pond:
Lake Louise light (the water texture is much more detailed than the dark version, but the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is farther and harder to see here… the dark one is closer)
First I aimed at the sun, so the sky was darker and all the clouds were detailed, but the mountains turned totally black.
Then tried lighter a bit, once or twice, until I liked the balance between bright sky clouds and the dark mountains. This was used by Occipital in the 360verse, and a viewer commented on it which inspired me to write this blog post.
2. Preventing Broken Horizons
Watch the grid when starting and try to capture the horizon in your first image, rather than a total sky image or total ground image. Then slowly angle the device up and down to get the sky and ground for this initial horizon image, then return to the horizon and start slowly turning around in a circle. Try have the new new image overlap the captured images as much as possible. Spinning your body at a slower speed helps.
This action will greatly reduce the chance of a broken horizon. It’s much more tricky to get the horizon at the end of the 360 spin to be unbroken. I think it’s a bit of luck, but it’s also about keeping the iPhone as still as possible while spinning.
Start spinning slowly again, capturing the sky and ground in the same manner. I haven’t determined if it makes a difference to capture only the sky in a spin and the ground in a separate spin, or if the second spin can capture both sky and ground by angling up and down as you spin the second time around.
Quick Bonus Tips!
- Keep the iPhone as close to you as possible, right in front of your face. Holding it at arms length can confuse it for certain near-by objects. This tip came directly from Occipital after I finally asked for help in late February 2011.
- Also don’t lower it down to your chest or waist when capturing the ground, and don’t stick it way up above your head when capturing the sky. Only rotate it up and down, right in front of your face, and spin your body to get the side images.
Now I’ve created almost 30 panoramas, some uploaded and public, and feel great confidence in the app, and my own improved use of it. I hope this info can help you get even more enjoyment from the app.
A brief bio from Tom Pace:
I am a technology consultant. My experience was originally in desktop web apps, but my focus has changed to prioritize the user experience and development on mobile devices in recent years. I have completed projects and have more in development on iOS, and Android, for myself and clients around North America and the Caribbean.
Working independently for several years, I enjoy the experience of entrepreneurship. Being independent demands me to keep a strict focus on growth, being proactive, keeping a constant positive attitude, and often thinking outside the box.
I have an insatiable desire to explore the bleeding-edge boundaries of technology, and to explore the wide and wonderful natural world. Being out in the natural world is one of the best sources of creativity and inspiration.
You can see more of Tom’s panoramas on his public profile.