Virtual Tour Photography

Lake Austin from Mt. Bonnell

Lake Austin from Mt. Bonnell

Pennybacker Bridge (Loop 360)

Pennybacker Bridge (Loop 360)

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

[click image to view virtual tour]

After moving to Austin last year, I am enjoying visiting some familiar landmarks. The first two images are well known and frequently visited locations by Austinites and tourists. I hope to add to this collection as time permits. The bottom two are from previous trips elsewhere.

Some of my recent work assignments have called for virtual tours, and since technology is constantly changing, it was time to update my methods and workflow. Since bandwidth is not as much of a barrier as it used to be – even on mobile devices – high resolution images can be used full-screen to present a better 360-degree immersive experience. Today’s technology makes it easier than ever to see the world from your computer or mobile device.

To capture these images and present them in 360-degree view, I followed these steps:

  1. Use a wide-angle lens (10mm) positioned vertically on a tripod
  2. Take an average meter reading across the entire scene and lock the exposure
  3. Set the focus to infinity and lock it in place
  4. Take as many as 12 photos, rotating the tripod head after each shot, until the entire 360 degrees are covered and making sure there is sufficient overlap between images for stitching
  5. Use Panoweaver software to stitch all photos together
  6. Create mobile-friendly virtual tour and export Web files using Pano2vr software

There were some caveats I learned while transitioning to hi-res virtual tours. Previously I shot virtual tours with two 180-degree fisheye images, but that method had some limitations. Moving forward, I can now offer better high resolution virtual tours for my clients, with many additional features like clickable hot spots and touchless mobile viewing using a smart phone’s built-in gyroscope.