Travel & Tourism

WildWeb’s 2 Favourite Google 360° Photographers

Google 360 Photography

With new advancements being made in technology every single day, it’s beginning to feel like we’re living in some sort of futuristic sci-fi movie.

Ford has autonomous cars. Apple has wireless earphones. Nike has self-lacing shoes. Admittedly, some of these ‘advancements’ are better than others. However, these gadgets are not what we’re talking about now because we’ve got all our attention focused on Google’s new Street View 360° photography.

Being in the business of marketing safari lodges, we like to be able to showcase the lodges to potential clients in the best way possible. Short of physically taking people there to show them, 360° images are the next best thing as they allow the viewer to fully immerse themselves in an image and almost feel as if they are standing there themselves. We got in touch with two of our favourite accredited Google Street View 360 photographers to find out a little more about this style of photography.

Stuart Parker from Desert & Delta Safaris shares what he thinks about 360 photography:

What has been your experience with 360’s so far?

Stuart: The feedback we have had from the 360 images has been amazing, especially on Facebook since they adapted their feed to accept 360 images earlier this year. We see a significantly higher amount of engagement, especially comments, on our 360 images on Facebook. Past guests immediately recognise the space and often comment on their personal experiences from being in the same space. We also see a lot of sharing with people showing spouses or other family members what’s in store for an upcoming vacation.

In the past these images were a challenge to create and expensive to host on websites using specialised software but with the new google street view app the process is far simpler, albeit time consuming. This has made it a more accessible marketing tool and a great way to showcase tourism properties.

What’s also great about having the images loaded on Google maps is they are effectively freely available for anyone to use. Tour operators and travel agents who market our properties on their websites can easily access and embed the images onto their own websites allowing them to improve the visual experience on their websites with almost zero costs. They also have access to the images for their own social media profiles to improve engagement and drive more bookings through the lodges.

Why do you think that it is effective?

Stuart: When people plan their vacations, the visuals available to them have a large impact on the decision making process. These 360 images offer potential clients the opportunity to view a lodge or property from a fully immersive perspective. They’re no longer only looking at framed images of what the photographer wants them to see. Having a full 360-degree view inside a room or from a deck overlooking the river gives them a far better spacial understanding of the property they going to visit.

How do you do it?

Stuart: There are a few different ways to create the actual images. The simplest way is with a 360-degree camera which generally has two or four lenses which take photos simultaneously and stitches them together. Google only accepts images from a selection of 360 cameras but the list is growing as the quality on these cameras improves. We chose to use a DSLR camera with a high quality fish eye lens for high quality RAW images. The process with a DSLR camera, however, is more challenging as there are technical considerations you need to plan for, most importantly is the nodal point on the lens and the tripod head. Post processing is also a lengthy process as you need to process individual images and then stitch them together using specialised software. Once the image has been created it’s a simple process of uploading them onto google maps using their Street View app, and tagging them in the correct location. Google then does a quality check on the image and confirms or rejects the image. Once they are confirmed they are freely viewable and can be embedded on any website using their embedding code.

Here are a few examples of Stuart’s work for Desert & Delta Safaris :

Chris du Plessis from 360 Image Film also shares a little about what he’s been doing with 360 photography:

What has been your experience with 360’s so far?

Chris: It has been an amazing experience to be able to show people what a place looks like without actually being there and is a great for ‘selling’ your location.

Why do you think that it is effective?

Chris: The 360 photos are on Google search and maps. We (360 Image Film) team up with Google Street View program to help promote your location on Google maps and in search results.

How do you do it?

Chris: A few ways to make it interesting is with a normal DSLR and a wide angle lens take few photos in a circle to make up the 360 view. I can also take 360 aerial photos with my drone. Then with all that content I can edit it into a VR 360 video to view with Google Cardboard or any other VR gear.

Here is an example of one of Chris’s 360 image films taken at &Beyond Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge in Botswana:

Pretty cool, hey! What will they think of next? 360 degree holograms perhaps? We’ll just have to wait and see.

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