A Tiny Planet of Mt Etna in Italy.
From immersive 360-degree photospheres and videos, to visually fascinating Tiny Planets, 360 cameras offer a unique take on photography. But with that unique take comes a bit of a learning curve. Worse, many of the cameras are difficult to use (to put it politely).
This guide will hopefully help you through the all the stages, from getting your camera setup to posting your creations online.
This is as specific as a general guide can be. There will be, of course, camera-specific features and settings I won’t be able to cover here. But with any luck, this will give you a base of knowledge to cover the basics.
Though you can use your camera on it’s own, it’s always better to connect to your phone. Download the app first. Some cameras require connecting through the app, and not via your phone’s settings menu.
If you have issues, it’s often easier to delete everything and start over. Seriously. You don’t necessarily need to delete the app, but going into your settings and having your phone “forget” any Bluetooth or WiFi settings associated with the camera, so it can start fresh, will likely save time and headache. Sometimes you’ll need to do this on the camera itself too. I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent trying to connect cameras just to have to delete it all and start over. And usually that solves the problem.
From there, the camera is likely ready to go. Depending on how familiar you are with a normal camera’s settings, most 360 cameras have a mode that lets you adjust things like exposure, shutter speed, and so on.
It’s also worth checking if your camera comes with desktop software. Most do. In some cases this just duplicates what the app does. In others, it’s the only way to fully edit your photos and videos.
Taking Photos and Videos
Taking 360 images and videos is quite unlike normal photography. There’s no “angle” to speak of, no framing either. You just get everything. If you just want to capture a scene, then no problem. Just hold it up and snap the shutter.
To get really compelling photos/videos, placement is key. Finding the best spot is vital, so you have something interesting not just all around the camera, but also in the near and far distance as well. This proves to be exceptionally challenging, since the best places don’t always have a flat surface to place the camera. I’ve also found that many of the best places are also the busiest places, so you’ve got masses of strangers all staring at your camera (many trying to figure out what it is).
If you’re more of a fan of Tiny Planets (or their inverse), that creates a whole new challenge. The middle distance becomes important, as anything tall there will be spiking up off the little world. Sometimes this is good, other times it makes the photo impossible to use without cropping.
An inverse Tiny Planet, possible with 360 cameras. From my Instagram.
There’s an extent of just having to try a bunch of photos and you’ll start to see what works. When you’re first starting out, once you have a place you think will make a good photo, physically spin around to get an idea what’s around you. Good standard photo practices will help here as well.
Videos it’s a bit less of an issue, since it’s understood that you’re moving around in some space.
The early days of 360 cameras was like the wild wild west. It was hard to find software or apps that could edit the content, and many of the ones that did would make it hard to post said content. These days, most of the big-name software will preserve the metadata, and Facebook, YouTube, and so on will identify the photo/video as 360 and post it as such.
Adobe added 360 photo editing to Photoshop, and this is certainly the easiest way to edit photos. In addition to standard image adjustments like color and exposure, you can also remove unwanted objects like tripods and people.
For videos, most cameras come with their own software for trimming videos. Some of these will let you combine clips as well to form longer videos. Adobe’s Premiere will treat these videos just as flat videos, so you can edit, color correct, and export, all as normal. There are plugins for certain cameras as well, like GoPro, but now we’re going beyond the scope of this article.
I mention Adobe because they’re certainly the best known. They’re also really expensive. Other photo editing software should have little issue with the images. I recommend with any editing software not to crop the image at all, since that could confuse the sites you’re posting to, making them unable to figure out you’re posting a 360 image. If you don’t crop and don’t resize and you still get Facebook to identify a 360 image you’re trying to post, it’s likely because your photo editing software has removed the image’s metadata identifying the camera type. This is one of the ways Facebook and other sites use to determine if the image is supposed to be shown in 360. You might be able to add that metadata back in on your own, but it might be easier to just use a different photo editor.
GoPro Fusion Tiny Planet – From my Instagram.
Some 360 cameras come with a mode in the app that lets you create cool Tiny Planet photos and videos. If not, there are some 3rd party apps that let you do it. I use Tiny Planet Maker for Android, which is free and has a lot of adjustments. It doesn’t handle really large image files very well though.
I haven’t tried it, but RollWorld for iOS is free and has 4.5 stars.
Share your lovely content with the world? For photos the two easiest and most obvious are Facebook and Flickr. For videos it’s Facebook, YouTube, and now Vimeo.
Generally, all you’ll need to do is upload the video. If you’re having an issue, here’ Facebook’s 360 help page, YouTube’s 360 help page (note, you shouldn’t have to insert metadata as it mentions here. Only do that if you’re having issues), and Vimeo’s 360 help page.
There are a number of pay sites for hosting and sharing 360 images that offer different (perhaps better), features and layouts, like Kuula and Keenai.
360 photography and videography will always be a niche part of the overall camera market, but it’s an interesting one (to me, anyway). The best way to get better at it is to practice. See what works, and see what doesn’t. It took me a while to get the hang of it, and I still know I have a long way to improve. If you want to check out my stuff, here’s my YouTube channel, Flikr page, and Instagram (which I do a mix of regular and Tiny Planet stuff).
Hope this helped. Have fun!
Beginner's Guide To 360 Cameras – Forbes
07/06/2022 360 Photography