How to Create 360-Degree Photos

You can make and edit 360-degree videos, so why not panoramic photographs? Editing 360-degree photos uses programs similar to what would be used to edit 360 videos.

Methods for Shooting 360 Degree Panoramas

Before delving into the process of editing, I want to recommend a few methods for taking 360-degree photos. There are many products out there that promise to provide great panoramic shots. What you’ll essentially need is a fisheye lens camera that captures a fully spherical shot of its surroundings, or a spherical setup of several cameras. Canon, Nikon, and other brands offer a digital single-lens reflex camera which works best for the fisheye option. Another other option is the Ricoh Theta which has phone apps that allow for 360 photos, such as Google’s Photosphere app. If choosing spherical setup of several cameras GoPro is an excellent choice.

Tips for Shooting

Here are a few tips for shooting 360-degree panoramas that will make the editing process go by smoother.

  • Turn on the light exposure
  • Shoot images from a single viewpoint to avoid Parallax (I recommend using a panoramic head to ensure this)
  • When shooting, have at least a 20% overlap between images

Software

PTGui stands for Graphical User Interface for Panorama Tools. It is a panoramic image stitching software for Windows and Mac OS X. I recommend this program above all as the software to use to edit your 360-degree photos. Why? It makes the process of creating a single panorama from several 360 degree photos quick and painless. With a few clicks, you can automatically sync, stitch, and create your 360 panoramas. The program has an unlimited output size, works with every camera lens, and is capable of multi-row stitching. Some more useful features are “Blender” and “Masking”.

To Stitch Photos in PTGui, open the program and import your photos. Select “Align Images”, which will prompt the program to stitch together the photos using control points. If the 360-degree photos were taken correctly, this should be simple. However, if there is a problem automatically stitching control points, PTGui allows the user to manually enter the control points in the Control Points tab. Just find a few points in both images that are the same and create pairs of control points that cover the overlap area really well. You’ll need at least four pairs of control points. If you’re not sure if you have enough, click on the control point assistant and it will tell you if you have enough control points. Click the “Optimize” button then save the project.

A few more things the program is able to assist with are the horizon, projection, and the field of view. To correct the horizon, drag upwards or downwards until all of the vertical lines are parallel and rotate the panorama to level it. The projection you choose for your panorama depends on which type of scene you want and which features you want to enhance. A rectilinear projection works best for scenes where a building or architectural object is the main focus of the photograph. This option should be used only for panoramas that are 120 degrees or less. A cylindrical projection is suitable for 360-degree panoramas and it is the only way to display a 360-degree image on a flat surface. If you want to capture a fully spherical panorama, use the equirectangular projection. To change the field of view by moving sliders left and right or up and down, which will also crop the image.

One last important feature of PTGui is the Masking tool. It hides parts of an image that you wish to get rid of. Just paint over which parts you want to hide, and the images won’t be visible in your final product. The masking tool is available in PTGui Pro Version 9.

Other Programs

After stitching and editing and PTGui, I recommend using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. This program has tons of features to enhance your photos, including blending tools for high-dynamic range photography, editing and sharing online, as well as the ability to edit your photos on all your devices. You might also want to check out Hugin and Kolor Autopano by GoPro.