With the touch of a button (more or less) you can now share the entire world around you. Not just what’s in front of the camera, but what’s behind, above and to a lesser extent even below it. Unlike anything that’s ever been available before giving you a full 360° perspective. What makes this even better is the ability to use a VR headset. This brings your shots to life, truly immersing yourself as if you’re actually stood there while the pictures were taken.
After some trial and error myself I thought I would jot down a few hints and tips to help you along the way
1. Avoid Big Tripods
Tripods are great for traditional photography, but they do not work well for 360° for a simple reason: most of them have large bases, designed to hold a heavy DSLR camera. If you attach a Ricoh or a Gear 360 to that, the base will be visible in the photo and it will be huge. This is a problem similar to the “giant thumb” issue.
What’s even worse, a lot of tripods have a handle under the base used to adjust the position and rotation of the camera. Those handles of course are visible in a 360° photo and they look just terrible, so avoid tripods that have them!
2. Get Yourself a Monopod
Most 360 cameras work with standard tripod mounts, so don’t limit yourself to any stands that come with your camera. Even using a selfie stick to hold the camera in the air is better than holding it with your hand. Preferably get yourself a monopod without any over hanging screws near the top and has a narrow base. If you find when pulled out it’s a little top heavy, then just slide some weights over the top.
Also consider a gorillapod, I’ve found this to be useful for those adventurous shots.
3. Turn off the Base Logo and add it later
This can be added when you stitch the photo and it leaves a small round logo at the bottom of all your photos and is usually massive as standard. I always add my own in post processing, this way I have the original untouched clean shot to show off in panoramic or tiny planet. To turn it off, simply connect to the camera via the app, select more, settings and toggle the add logo at bottom.
The original saved unstitched file will always remain untouched on your memory card, so if you do forget to turn it off don’t worry. Just reload the original and re-stitch at anytime.
4. Know the Orientation
This is actually very important as this will be the key focal point of your image in a panorama or the start point in 360° viewing modes. Strangely on the gear 360 its actually the back lens that is the center POV and the front lens is either side.
5. Keep the Camera Vertical
As a general rule, the camera needs to be always in upright position. It shouldn’t be tilted backwards, forwards or to the sides, this will affect the VR controls. The horizon line needs to be perfectly… well, horizontal.
You will see that this is easier said than done, especially when you do handheld photos! The good news is that most of the apps have now have auto tilt functions and try to fix this for you. However sometimes it doesn’t always work, this can still be adjusted in post production, but you need specialized software to do this. Just make your life easier and keep it as straight as possible.
6. Using a Selfie Stick
Make sure you extend the selfie stick as far out as you can and put it above your head, unless you want to see the stick. Remember it sees all around you, so if you don’t extend your selfie stick fully then the shot will be right next to your face and when viewing that in VR, it’s highly likely you could be seeing right up your nose!
7. Avoid close-ups
Objects that are close to the lens might get cut or distorted in stitching. Anything closer than one foot from the camera is at risk of being distorted.
If you want to do a closeup on an object and this object is relatively small, just make sure to place it in front of one of the lenses and not between them.
For the same reason, it’s best to avoid putting the camera directly on a table or on the ground. Always try to use a small tripod or a stand. If the ground is far enough from the lens, there should be no visible stitching errors.
8. Use the Time Delay
This can be useful for some situations, especially when using the camera as a standalone. You’ll want that extra time if you’ve set up on a tripod or extending a selfie stick giving yourself that time to get in position or hide out of the way. Remember if your not worried about using up the battery of your phone, use the app to control the camera from afar. You’ll get more precise results this way using the live view.
This is a feature that I think is often overlooked. You can film a 4k 360° time lapse which looks great in the right environment. Just set up your camera, stick it on a tripod and let it film for at least a few minutes. It will shoot still pictures at the rate you have selected and stitch them together to create a fast moving video.
10. Check the Default Video Resolution
For some reason the default settings on some cameras seem to reset at only 2k, so before shooting any video get and change this to 4k. On the gear 360 this is probably easier to do on the camera itself. Press the menu button until you come to settings, press ok, then again pressing the menu button until you see video size. Then choose 3840×1920. On the phone you have to connect your gear 360 and select live view, change to video mode, then at the top of the screen you should have the menu. Just tap on video size, should be right next to the settings cog.
360° photos and especially 360° videos are large files, ideally you’ll want to upgrade to at least a 128GB card or larger if you can. I’ve used the SanDisk Ultra 128GB microSD now for many years and they’ve always been reliable.
12. Carry a Spare Battery
If you’re only taking stills on occasion the battery can last for a couple days, but video drains the battery fast and the camera is susceptible to overheating. Luckily for me I haven’t had this problem yet, but I’ve read it seems to be quite a common problem. Having a spare battery or two at hand will help you to carry on with your day knowing you’ll never run out of power. Im currently using Expro’s twin samsung 360 kit
13. Fish-Eye Shots
Don’t forget the gear 360 has two lenses that can be used independently. Sometimes all you really need is that one angle. I really didn’t need the 360° shot that would have included the road behind me.
14. Be Aware Of the Stitch Line
The stitching process unfortunately isn’t perfect and any objects that are close to either of the lenses will likely appear distorted. Avoid this by keeping any objects, including you, at least a few feet away from the camera when filming or taking photos. The fewer objects that immediately surround the camera, the better the stitching appears. If you have to be close to an object, then make sure you face up to the glass of the lens so the stitch line won’t be on the object.
15. Keep the Lighting Even
If you’re not careful especially when shooting in the sun you’ll get an obvious stitch line with the difference in colours. This occurs when one of the lenses are exposed to more light than the other. This is especially susceptible while shooting outdoors and one of the camera lenses is facing directly toward the sun, while the other is facing into a darker area. One image would appear much brighter than the other and this would make the stitch line very obvious.
Avoid this by making sure each lens is receiving roughly the same amount of light. Simply turn the camera sideways so that each lens is being hit with the same intensity of light.
You can adjust the ISO sensitivity in the settings of the app from 400-6400. Usually the lower number is less sensitive to light and have a finer grain (great for dark situations or night stuff). Higher ISO situations are for fast moving objects. However the higher the ISO you choose the noisier, grainy shots your likely to get.
16. Add Your Photos to Google Street View
You can connect the Gear 360° to Google Street View and use it to contribute your 360° photos which can then be featured on Google Maps and potentially have millions of viewers. Once you have uploaded enough acceptable photo spheres Google may authorise you as an official Google Street View Photographer.
Go to my What is Street View post for more information
17. Gear 360 users Don’t Lose Your Product Key
Tucked away inside the Gear 360° box is a small piece of paper with a product key. I didn’t even notice it for weeks and was lucky not to have thrown it away. Keep it safe, take a picture of it even, so you have a copy.
The key is for Samsung’s Action Direct app for your PC. This allows you to trim and edit 360° content on your computer instead of having to use your phone. Without this key, you can’t use the program.
18. Tiny Planets
Create awesome tiny planet pictures or videos, all you have to do when viewing a photo is choose RoundView. Now for pictures you could simply screenshot to save it or the gear manager 2017 New, allows you to save image. I prefer to use another app though as screen shots loose resolution, so look awful trying to zoom in. To get the video you’ll also have to use another app and for more on that check out my Top 360° Editing Apps.
19. Take Less Photos
One of the best features of 360° photos is how much context a single picture can capture. You can literally have a selfie, foodpic, landmark and all of your friends around you in a single shot! Instead of snapping hundreds of regular photos, just take a 360 and you’ve got it all in one. This way you have extra time to relax and enjoy whatever you are doing!
20. Enjoy Yourself
Lastly just get out there, have fun and be creative.
Shooting with 360 can be odd looking to some. I’ve found using it in public people do wonder what you are doing. I’ve had a few people ask me what that random weird thing is and I’m always happy to explain. So if you find people staring at you in confusion, just give a friendly smile and acknowledgement.
Have I missed anything? Let me know