How to Take Amazing 360 Degree Photos

360 degree photo for how to story

Editor’s Note: The author is General Manager of the THETA Business Division for the RICOH Company. The above image is by @tetsu_photo2.

Scrolling through Instagram or Facebook, you may occasionally come across a unique image with the distinct features of 360-degree panoramic photography. With the ability to transform the mundane into compelling content, these images may seem difficult to produce – that’s not always the case.

Though every 360 camera is different, many of them grant even the most novice photographers the opportunity to capture beautiful imagery. There are three important aspects to unlocking your inner 360 photographer – understanding the framing process, placing yourself properly, and knowing the best (and easiest) editing practices.

Know Where Your Camera Is

While 360 cameras indeed capture your surroundings from every angle, a common misconception is that you can just turn any photograph into a work of spherical art. Shot placement is still essential if you want a photo worthy of boasting online and knowing the elements in each direction will allow you to position your camera in just the right spot.

For instance, if you’d like to snap a flowery photo, placing your camera as close as possible to the subject (the flowers) will make it pop throughout the image.

Image of Ricoh Theta 360 camera

Another common situation to consider is landscape photos, both in natural and urban settings. Elevating your camera, preferably with a selfie stick or monopod, will give your shots a greater emphasis on the broader surroundings while keeping eye-level distractions out of focus, such as other people, cars, street signs, and more.

The key to a successful monopod photo is to keep your camera vertically aligned with it, which can give your image a “floating camera” effect as it becomes invisible in the image. Beyond these common examples, generally being aware of both your surroundings and your camera’s positioning will help you hit the ground running to create quality photography.

Photo of Ricoh Theta camera in action

The below 360-degree image is by Shawna Rogers. It’s interactive and you can scroll around the scene by click-and-grabbing it with your mouse. To see more 360 image examples, click on the THETA 360 Photo Gallery box on the right below the photo.

Post from RICOH THETA. – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

How to Fit in (or Out) of Your Photos

A benefit of many handheld 360 cameras is the ability to simply press the shutter button for instant results and the ultimate on-the-go photography capabilities. But forget double chins and side profiles, due to the nature of 360-degree photographs, your hands will likely be the biggest pain point in your handheld 360 photography ventures.

Holding your camera correctly and knowing what you’ll look like once the shutter clicks will minimize their presence in your shots and can save you from plenty of self-conscious grief. So how do you hold your camera correctly?

The best way to avoid in-frame fingers in your imagery is to use a selfie stick or monopod. These will distance your hand from the bottom of the frame, and many cameras will automatically filter over the bottom of their photos (remember the “floating camera” phenomenon?), helping to keep your monopod and hands from becoming the unintended stars of the show.

Photo of Ricoh Theta camera 2

Don’t have a monopod? There’s still an easy way to hold your 360 camera without your hand taking up unwanted space: pinch the bottom of the camera with two fingers and hold it up at a 90-degree angle before snapping a photo.

Another pair of tools to improve your positioning in 360° imagery are tripods and remote shooting buttons. These give you much more freedom in choosing where to be in your photo, if you even want to be in them at all.

If you want a pure landscape photograph without photobombing the scenery, grab a remote shooting tool and hide out of sight for the perfect shot.

Photo of 360 camera in action 3

The below 360-degree image is by Shawna Rogers. It’s interactive and you can scroll around the scene by click-and-grabbing it with your mouse. To see more 360 image examples, click on the THETA 360 Photo Gallery box on the right below the photo.

Post from RICOH THETA. – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Easy Editing Techniques

Now that you have your 360 images taken and ready to share, there’s one final (and optional) step that can bring your content to the next level: editing. You’ve probably seen the “tiny planet” edits of 360 photos that are highly popular thanks to their iconic look, and that’s just one of many that are easily achievable, which both open up new creative avenues and make your images compatible for social networks and websites that don’t host 360 imagery.

Even an ordinary scene or object can become exciting when its proportions are distorted, making its features stand out in new ways. For someone with an existing suite of photography software, apps like Photoshop and Lightroom can be your go-to, but even apps like Ricoh Theta’s THETA+ app allow for both freeform and preset editing of 36o-degree images directly on your smartphone.

Is capturing 360 photos really this simple? Yes.

By following these three guidelines, anyone can capture stunning 360-degree content. The magic doesn’t stop here, though. If the basics of 360 photography grabbed your attention, I highly encourage you to take a deeper dive and learn more about all the possibilities you can uncover with a 360 camera and an open, explorative mind.

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