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Getting started with 360 virtual tours

Do you want to start creating immersive 360 Virtual Tours? This article is for you! We distilled years of experience into the most consise introduction to 360 photography and virtual tours yet. From recommended hardware choices, to simple and useful tips - this article will have you ready to shoot your first Virtual Tour with confidence within minutes!

Step 1. Buy a 360 camera and a light stand

Recommended 360 cameras

A good quality 360 camera is a necessary prerequisuite to create virtual tours. Since we started Kuula, the 360 camera market has come a long way and there are many 360 cameras to chose from these days. Most of them are very easy to use, inexpensive and allow to take very good quality 360 panoramic photos. Here is choice of 360 cameras recommended by our team:

Stands

You can hold a classic camera in your hands, but for 360 panoramic photography you will definitely need to use a stand. Classic tripods do not work very well because they have a large base that ends up being clearly visible in the photo. Classic tripods are also not tall enough.

To avoid that, we recommend a light stand. Light stands are not only much taller but also leave a smaller footprint at the bottom of the panoramic photo, which you can easily cover with a nadir patch. Here's a couple of stands our team is using and recommends:

Manfrotto is a bit more solid but Neewer comes at a very attractive price. Both are great and quite similar in height.

Step 2. Shoot the panoramas

The best way to shoot 360 panoramas for virtual tours is to install an app on your mobile phone that controls the camera and the shutter. Here are links to all the apps for the recomended cameras:

  • Insta 360 ONE X
  • Ricoh Theta V
  • Xiaomi Mijia Mi Sphere

After you install the app on your mobile device, you will need to connect the camera to your phone. Please refer to your specific camera instruction manual as different cameras work in slightly different ways.

In most cases, the camera creates a Wi-Fi network that you connect to with your phone and at this point the app can communicate with the camera.

After you connect the mobile phone to the camera, mount the camera on the light stand and you are ready to start your shoot! Below are some useful tips & tricks, based on our experience:

  • Set the camera on eye level.

    Adjust the stand to have the camera lens at a height of approximately 5ft / 150cm. Always put the camera on the floor, avoid photos from table tops or shelves. Finally, make sure the camera is straight up, not tilted.

  • Avoid being in the photo.

    Before taking the photo, hide behind a wall, a piece of furniture or go to a different room. Also double check if you are not visible in a mirror reflection! You do not need to see the camera, since you control it via the mobile app. Most apps have live preview mode, so make use of it.

  • Get enough coverage.

    Take a shot aproximately every 10ft (3m) for apartments and 20ft (6m) for large spaces. In interiors, take at least one photo in each room and make sure there is always a line of sight between the consecutive spots where you place the stand. For example, if there is a hallway with a sharp corner, take an extra shot on that corner. This way you'll avoid users getting disoriented later, when moving around the virtual tour.

  • Clean up the space, leave doors open, stay away from walls.

    Make sure the space around the camera is clean. The eye of the 360 camera is all seeing! A pile of dirty laundry or an empty coffee cup can ruin the shot. Leave the doors connecting the rooms open - this way the user can always see where he's heading in the virtual tour. Do not place the camera close to walls, choose a more central location in each room instead.

  • Keep the camera in the same direction across all photos.

    Point the camera in the same direction in every shot. This will make editing the tour much easier and faster later on. Most 360 cameras look similar on both sides so put a small red sticker to easily see which side is the front. When you move the stand to take the next photo, make sure the sticker side always points in the same direction. If you accidentally rotate tha camera, don't worry too much. You can reorient the photos later in the Kuula editor.

  • Use HDR mode.

    If you are a seasoned photographer, you can experiment with lighting your scenes and try techniques like bracketet shots and software such as Photomatix HDR for best results. For most beginners however, we recommend to use the built-in HDR mode in every shot (if available). This function will yield the best results in terms of light and contrast with the least amount of work.

Step 3. Upload the photos and create the tour

Once you finish the shoot, download all the photos from the camera to your mobile device or computer and review all the shots to make sure they all look good.

Once you have all the photos ready for the virtual tour, open your browser and login to your account on Kuula. Now you are ready to build your tour! To learn how to do it, click below.

Virtual Tour Tutorial

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