TowerStitch

Stitched 360º Panorama

I have been asked a quite few times about how I do my stitched panoramas so I will take you through the steps as simply as I can. It is not an easy process and took me a lot of time and practice to get it to where I am happy. I use a variety of tools from a DSLR, panoramic head tripod, nodal rail, my drone etc etc, I may need to write another blog on it’s own for all that!

I been doing panoramas for quite a few years and now with Facebook 360º I can share my work to a wider audience. You can view the image above interactively here – Tower Hill 360º panorama. You can use your mouse to move around or by simply tilting your phone or tablet. If the horizon does not look right, please tilt your phone up to the ceiling and then back down to normal position, this should fix the viewing issue.

Normally, you would want to shoot in manual (exposure and white balance), this is done so that all your images will look uniform and correctly exposed. This works well when you have a scene that has similar dynamic range, tone and exposure. For aerial, I usually leave it in full auto as I let the camera expose according to what it is pointing at, otherwise I would end up with some very bright or very dark imaes.

pano

Make sure you have approximately a 30% overlap between each of the photos. This will ensure that you have enough data to process at a later stage. So basically, you take a photo, pan the camera to the right, take another shot and repeat until you get around to where you started. I usually yaw the camera itself with my inspire 1, this help minimise the movement of the drone and also reduce parallax error. With a phantom or any other drone, you can choose to yaw the aircraft itself. For 360º spherical, I would do a row of  yaw/pan shots. With my DJI Inspire 1, I can also pitch the camera up slightly, I would do a yaw/pan shot, this will help me minimize my nadir hole. I then pitch the camera down 30º, do another yaw/pan series of shots, pitch the camera down another 30º, do another yaw/pan, take a nadir (down) shot, spin 90º, take another nadir shot. As per example below, the first roll comprised of 13 images. Next one is 11 and then the next are 7 images. Last two are the two nadir images. I believe you can also take a zenith (top) shot with your phone and use this as part of your stitch – I have yet to try this method.

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 3.37.42 pm
After the initial adjustment of individual images in LR (lens correction, exposure and white balance), I load them in PTGui PRO for stitching. You can use the built-in stitcher in LR or PS to simple stitch. I find PTGui to be one the best stitchers out there in both features and speed. After the initial alignment I get the image below. Make sure that all the images are aligned, if any of the images overlap too much it will confuse the program so you will need to delete them. If all the spherical image data is there, then you will get a complete 360º. If not, then you will need to patch it later. Go to “Create Panorama” tab, set optimum size (largest), change file type to tiff, check output path, change file name to “Pano-no_sky.tiff” and Create Panorama or Save and send to Batch Stitcher. You will have to come back to this file later.

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 3.38.02 pmDJI_0125 Panorama
To patch the Zenith (top), I reload the file exported in step 3, “Pano-no_sky.tiff” into a new instance of PTGui. In Project Assistant tab, change Lens type to “Equirectangular panorama” with Hor. Field of View of 360º. Click Advanced button to access hidden tabs.

ProjectAss
Find Panorama Settings tab, change Projection to “Equirectangular (for spherical panoramas)” FOV of 360ºx180º

PanoramaSettings
Find Image Parameters tab, change pitch to -90 to wrap the image in a way that it would be easier to edit the nadir.

ImagePera
Go back to Create Panorama tab and export full size image, rename this file to “Pano-zenith_edit.tiff”. Leave this PTGui open. Do not shut down the program.

DJI_0125 Panorama Panorama
Open the file in photoshop to edit. After you edit the zenith in Photoshop with content aware fill or patch it with another sky, flatten the file, go back to PTGui that you had opened, under Source Images tab, click the import button (green +) to import fixed “Pano-zenith_edit.tiff”. You will need to delete the image that’s already in there as you will now have to transform this file into a normal panorama.

DJI_0125 Panorama Zenith.JPG
reimport
Go to Image Parameters tab, change the Pitch from 0 to 90 to wrap it back to a normal panorama.

90 wrap.jpg
Go to Create Panorama tab to export a complete equirectangular image. Be sure to set optimum size (largest), file type to tiff and file name to “Pano-with_sky.tiff”. NOTES: The exported file can be use as it is but due to wrapping and re-wrapping, you  will loose some details in the image. Most people will not be able to tell this. So you can skip 11.

Export.jpg
OPTIONAL: You now have the ground portion from “Pano-no_sky.tiff” and the sky portion from “Pano-zenith_edit.tiff”. Combine them in Photoshop by blending the two files together. I usually do this with a mask and layers. You can also download my template with 360º panoramic EXIF date already added here. This will allow you to simply resize your file, copy and paste into this template and export. Or you can use an EXIF utility available for your operating system to add the EXIF metadata later. I found AnalogExif (MAC) very useful and free. All you need to do is set the Camera manufacturer to RICOH and Camera model to RICOH THETA S.

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 8.55.48 pm.JPG
Once you have finish editing your file. Resize it to 6000px X 3000px. Select all, and copy. Open my template, have a quick read and simply paste your image into it. Flatten and export as jpeg at minimal compression. Be sure to save your full size edit too.

Aerial6K.jpg
You are now ready to upload your 360º panorama to Facebook. After numerous trial and errors with uploading to Facebook. I have found that files uploaded via my iPhone look sharper and have less compression than the one uploaded from my desktop computer. I simply upload the image to my dropbox, download it onto my phone and upload via Facebook APP. NOTE: you will need to enable HD upload from your app.

facebook-ios-app-hd-videosps-db-fb.jpg

Enjoy! Please comment below if you find this useful. Please subscribe to this blog, follow us on instagram and like us on Facebook. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.

Photo 14-05-2016, 4 37 52 PM

Grow your brand on Instagram

I am often asked how I grow my brand on Instagram, there is no quick answer to this. It takes time, effort and dedication just like running any business would. I have been using Instagram for about 12 months now and I still work hard at growing my account every day.

However, there are key points that I follow in order to grow my account and gain genuine followers. I am going to share those with you here so get your pens out😉

Photo 14-05-2016, 4 19 03 PM


Interaction
You need to interact with other people on Instagram, like and comment on photos you love and follow people that inspire you. This is a great way to get noticed and to gain followers. Don’t follow and unfollow just to gain numbers, no body likes that and in the long run you will just lose followers.

Keep posting
Try to post a new image at least once a day, or even twice at different times if you can. This will help you stand out rather than getting lost among the masses on Instagram. And if you want to go all out, post every 4 hours, this will help reach more people faster. Keep in mind the images need to flow from one to the other, so if you find yourself posting shots you aren’t happy with than slow it down. After all, quality is ultimately better than quantity.

Time of day
Posting during the week will perform better than on weekends. Posting from 6-9AM will do better than posting at 3PM. Again, this is up to interpretation and your target market.

Find your style
Choose a theme/style and stick with it. You want your photos to stand out and your whole page to look appealing so find your style and run with it.

Tags and hashtags
Tagging is the best way to get your name out. This can be done by tagging the people you are targeting i.e. the brand, the place, etc. as well as adding hashtags in your description or comments. Make sure your hashtags are related to what you are doing, for example I would use #landscape #photography #canon #australia #sunrise etc etc. Tagging also lets a wider audience see your work as you will pop up in more searches.

And that’s about it. It does take time and work, but if you are trying to build your business, then Instagram as well as other social media outlets are great resources to get your name out and get more business.

I would like to add that I love photography and I love to share my work with people, but some days it can start to feel like a chore and like I am missing special moments with my family, so when that happens I just switch it all off for a little while and take time to focus on the truly important things in life. I still take photos, my camera is never very far away, but I go out with my wife and son and have fun with it. As amazing as social media is, it can sometimes be isolating, so having supportive people around you to remind you to switch off is so important.

I hope this has answered the question and if you have any others feel free to ask me here or over on my Instagram or Facebook page. Happy snapping!

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