360′ virtual tours

How do real-estate websites show 360' virtual tours of their spaces? I spent part of the afternoon looking at software for possible business use. Here's how they do it, I think.

*Take photos.* First take super-wide-angle shots, rotating your camera around a fixed point. A number of stores sell fisheye lenses and camera mounts for this purpose. The mount for spherical pictures (all directions, including up and down) is more complicated than the mount for a 360' panoramic shot. If you don't mind distortion, then you can use a regular camera and just take pictures facing different directions, relying on stitching software to compensate a bit for the distortion.

*Stitch the pictures.* Camera designed specifically for 360' or spherical shots may be able to capture the entire scene in one image. However, if you're using a rotating mount or you're taking pictures in different directions, then you'll need to combine the images into a seamless panorama by using stitching software.

*Produce the brochure.* 360' viewers range from simple ones that smoothly scroll a panoramic picture, to more interactive viewers that include floor plans and clickable hotspots in the image. Choose the software that fits your intended purpose and budget.

Some companies that sell 360' software:

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  • Amanda

    Good article!! I use Easy Pano

  • mom

    We use Quick Time Virtual Reality (QTVR). We also have special tripod heads so photos are taken in precise increments.