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How to Use a 360 Camera

In: 
Published: 08/03/2021

As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.

Regular cameras already provide cool snapshots of the world around us, but a 360 camera is a different beast. That said, they come with a little bit of a learning curve. 

This article will take you through how to use a 360 camera and how you can get the most out of this pretty impressive device.

How to Use a 360 Camera

Like almost all other technology today, you can connect your camera to an app on your phone. Most cameras require that you set up your software through the app itself rather than your phone's Settings menu.

If your camera comes with desktop settings, you can do what the app does on your laptop or desktop computer, and this will make editing and posting your photos easier.

360 camera

If you're already familiar with standard camera settings, you can probably take it from there independently. Most 360 cameras let you adjust things like exposure and shutter speed, just like any other camera.

If you're still in the dark, read up on what a 360 camera is, and how you might be able to use it in your real estate photography business.

Consider Using a Tripod

While it is possible to take a picture on a 360 camera by yourself, a tripod will give you a lot more stability and freedom. You might need a camera with a self-timer, so you'll have time to get out of the shot. More importantly, a tripod without any obtrusive levers or arms is ideal.

You can use a travel tripod for this purpose since they have a ball head that moves whichever way you need. They are also lightweight, so you can keep your 360 camera mounted on it and carry it where you want to shoot.

A light stand is a good alternative since they're also lightweight and don't have any intrusive parts that could ruin your shot.

Taking Photos and Videos

Using a 360 camera takes trial and error and a lot of bad photos. That's because your 360 camera lens includes so much more in a shot than a regular camera. You can typically get an idea for a good picture by spinning in a full circle and noting your surroundings. 

The best 360 photos have something going on all around the camera lens: something colorful, something unique, or just something pretty. Having something in the background and close to the lens creates a compelling image.

Another challenge of using a 360 camera is finding an excellent place to put the camera. The most exciting places to shoot don't have flat surfaces to hold the camera, or they are just too crowded or busy.

Framing Photos and Videos

Part of the fun and the challenge of a 360 camera are finding a compelling perspective to shoot from. Some of the time, you can only shoot on 360 cameras from tripods or even from an app on your phone, limiting your perspective possibilities. 

On the other hand, some of the best 360 cameras can attach to several different things for a more dynamic viewing experience. People like to mount such cameras to places where they'll receive a unique or fun shot, such as a bike, head, or wrist.

In such cases, you'll still receive your camera's feed through the companion app. Some apps are cool enough to let you swap between lenses before and after recording. That way, you'll be able to get an accurate idea of what you'll shoot before even pushing the record button.

Person showing how to use 360 camera

Avoiding Oversize Hands

You're probably familiar with taking pictures and your hands showing up in the picture looking huge. You can use a selfie stick (you can at least edit that out later) or use a timer between pressing the shutter button and the camera shutter clicking.

Getting the Best Height and Distance

Usually, the best height and distance for a 360 shot is at chin or shoulder height. It sounds strange, but for videos, you can put the camera at a speaking distance from the subject. That is, the distance between you and another person that you're speaking casually to.

Avoiding Distorted Images

Sometimes, a picture's subject goes out of the lens, and you get a distorted image. It helps to imagine that whatever you might hit with the 360 camera as you turn will wind up distorted.

A picture taken in 360 is almost like folding a photo in half, so its ends meet. However, such ends do not always make a congruent picture. That meeting point is called the stitch line. Simply put, if you don't want a distorted image, avoid putting it in the stitch line.

When you move your camera, the stitch line will affect whatever the camera records. The stitch line is most noticeable when it cuts things in half. Say you took a picture of a pine tree. The stitch line would show one half of the tree looking taller than the other, distorting it.

Determining Camera Placement

The beauty of the best 360 camera is that it can show your viewer a whole new world in astonishing detail. That's why you most often need to place the camera in the middle of your scene: to make your camera a witness to a scene.

Such a rule is fundamental with a 360 camera because you have a chance to show a subject that a standard camera cannot. Either place the camera on a visually exciting topic or use a different perspective (i.e. bird's-eye or ant's-eye).

Imagine that you were getting a shot of something from inside your car. Positioning the camera to point at you while you drive would not be interesting. However, if you place the camera so that it contains half you and the road ahead, there is much more visual interest.

Remember Fish Eye Lenses

Most 360 cameras utilize a fish-eye lens, so everything is curved, looking wider in the middle and slimmer on the edges. Such a perspective allows you to view more of a subject at a time, creating a more dimensional perspective. As we've discussed, such a perspective distorts the image.

You may have to play a little with how much space you put between the camera and your subject. Most of the time, anywhere between three and five feet from your intended subject does the trick.

Editing Photos 

Photoshop's 360 photo editing software is the best-known software for editing 360 shots. It allows you to manipulate what's inside the photo (you can remove objects you don't want in the final image) on top of regular editing capabilities like color and exposure adjusting.

GoPro

A quick tip: do not crop 360 images since that might make some sites think your posted photos are regular camera shots. However, sites like Facebook and Flickr usually recognize a 360 photo's metadata, which identifies which camera type took the picture.

Long story short, don't crop and don't resize a photo, and any social media site should still recognize the picture as a 360 type.

Editing Videos

You can use Adobe Premiere to edit videos. The program allows you to make changes to 360 camera clips the same way you would for regular clips. 

However, some cameras come with their own video editing software. You might also find other knockoff editing software that you can download for free instead of paying an expensive subscription for Adobe software.

Adding Text

Sometimes you might choose to add text titles to a 360 video. Remember: you're not working with a regular, flat 2-D video. You're putting titles on a spherical surface. To make the text appear round, you'll have to distort it to match the fish-eye lens curve.

Doing so may likely require professional video editing software. Your best option might be Mettle, which specifically edits 360-degree video and has a downloadable plugin for Adobe Premiere and After Effects. 

Mettle's only downside is that it's an expensive program (almost $200) and is not an easy program to navigate without going through a few tutorials.

How to Record from a 360 Camera

Although we have mentioned that shooting with a 360 camera can be difficult, the mechanism for taking pictures remains the same: just pressing the shutter button. The difficulty lies in holding the camera with your hands as opposed to placing it on a tripod.

An app also gives you the chance to share content or start a live stream. As a bonus, some 360 cameras come with remote controls or voice control to better handle your shooting.

Using An App

In that regard, many 360 cameras come with companion apps that you can do much of your shooting with. The app contains most of your camera controls and usually has a self-timer for eliminating getting gigantic hands in your shots or just getting you out of the scene.

Sometimes, you won't have a self-timer or another way to take a picture without getting out of it. You can blend in with the environment of your image, or you can hide behind something before the shutter goes off. It sounds silly, but it works.

Conclusion

Using a 360 camera requires patience and dedication. However, if you let your creative eye guide you, you can come up with some truly interesting visual work. Remember to hang loose and have fun learning to use the camera, the same way you learned to use other cameras before it.

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