Interactive tours

360 Degree Interactive Tours

Interactive Tour

What are interactive tours?

Interactive tours are a collection of still images stitched together to create one large image, this is then turned into an interactive animation.  Click the image above to see a sample of the about interactive tour.

The image above is a complete 360 degree image of this meeting room, although the image looks rather strange when seeing it as you do above, when viewed as an interactive tour it all makes much more sense.

The best way to think of an interactive tour, think of it as a video but a video that the viewer is in control of, the view gets to decide what they view.  You can scroll right, left, up or down and even zoom in, you don’t get that sort of control with a video.

Who would use an interactive tour?

Interactive tours can be used by a variety of people and in various ways.  Much of my work is done with holiday companies and owners of holiday homes.  Although my clients also include schools, offices, gyms and childrens day nurseries.  It is a fantastic way of advertising any kind of premises, including outdoor spaces.  The more a client or potential client can get the view, the more confident they are about booking your premises, so by having an interactive tour you are saying to people you have nothing to hide.  More and more people are now looking for virtual tours before they book any kind of premises, so it really does pay to advertise your premises using interactive tours.  And the more tours you have done the more cost effective it becomes.

If you would like to see how an interactive tour could help your business, then please feel free to contact me.  I would be happy to supply a no obligation quote.

 

Affordable Product Photography

Product Photography

 

Product photography

 

Product photography

 Is product photography cost effective?

Having professional product photography done can make the difference between selling your products or not.  But how do you choose a photographer to do your product photography?  It can be easy to make a mistake and choose the wrong photographer, it can also be an expensive mistake to make.

Many people see product photography as an easy form of photography, I’ve spoken to many photographers who have decided to do product photography as it’s an easy subject.  Wrong good product photography is very difficult to do, every product requires a different type of lighting, positioning the product to give the best over look.

Choosing your photographer

Before commissioning any photographer to do your product photography always look at their work, check have the photographed similar product to yours?  Do they fully edit the photographs? that may sound like a strange question but you would be surprised to find than many photographers don’t.

One of the most difficult product to photograph is any white product on a white background, it can be done but it’s not easy.  If your products are white and you want a white background ask has the photographer done this before?  And if they have again check their work to make sure you are happy with the resulting images.

Specialist items

Where product photography is concerned all product are specialist, but another favorite of mine is wine, any class ware is difficult, getting the lighting right can be quite a task, but the results can be amazing.

Some products need to be suspended before you can photograph them, if you need product photography of this type check again how the photographer will be suspending them, after all you don’t want your products damaged when they are returned.

If you want to see more examples of my own product photography you are welcome to take a look.

Shoes

PHOTOGRAPHING SHOES

Shoes

Photographing shoes can be great fun, and as with any form of product photography, have good quality images can make the difference between selling the product or not.  I’ve photographed many shoes and usually clients want the images on a white background, but as the shoe in the picture was silver I photographed this shoe on a black background and black acrylic base, the black base gives the shoe a great reflections.  Just to give the shoe a little added interest we’ve added a couple of sparkles to the shoe, again this adds some extra interest to the photograph.

Red Shoe

Really interesting shoe to photograph, the red fur on the shoes does make it a little more difficult to shoot, I also had to find a way of supporting the ankle strap so it doesn’t just lay down into the shoe, this was done by rapping wire around the strap and editing it out afterwards.  As this was being done for a 360 animation I had to photograph this 36 times, and of course edit all 36 images.

Cream shoe

If I remember correctly this was the most expensive of the shoes on this page, I never understand why ladies pay so much for shoes, but if you are paying a lot of money and you are buying online then having good quality photographs will definitely make a difference.  This was another 360 animation shoot so another 36 shoe images.  We did about 10 different pairs of shoes on this shoot and all of them photographed using 360 photography, so 360 images in total for the shoot.

I’ve seem many instances where people buy from a dearer site just because the images looked better, even though they could have got the same product cheaper elsewhere, people never see bad product photography they see bad products and hence don’t buy.  Good quality product photography really does make the difference.

Virtual tour questions

Virtual Tour Questions

Virtual tour

If you are considering having virtual tours done what should you be looking for?  Is it just a questions of price? surely all virtual tours are the same?

In all the years I’ve been doing virtual tours the only question I’ve ever been asked is what will it cost?  Although I agree that price is important there are many other questions that should be considered first, hopefully by asking the questions below you will avoid making costly mistakes and get the virtual tours you really want.

I’m based in Newport South Wales, I’ve been doing 360 degree photography for over four year and photography in general for over thirty years.  More and more photographers are starting to offer 360 virtual tour photography, but they are not all the same.

Question 1: What formal will the tours be in? The main options are quicktime, flash and html5, all of these have plus and minus points.

Quicktime: unless you have a quicktime player on your pc then you need to download one, most people won’t bother so they will never get to see your tours, plus point they can be used in pdf’s.

Flash: The most versatile in the form of the special effects you can add to the tour, but as they cannot be used on iphones, ipads or macs this is not the best option.

Html5: The most versatie across the platforms and can be used on iphones, ipads and macs.  Downside if you are using a really old browser it probably won’t work.

Best Formal: Html5 with a flash backup, if you are using an old browser the html will drop out and the flash will kick in.

Question 2: How much of the room will I be able to see?  A 360 view obviously covers the view around the room.  But some tours will not be able to view completely over the ceiling or the bottom of the floor so giving you a limited field of view, I feel this detracts from the user experience but this is a personal point of view.

Question 3: If you are getting a complete 360 x 180 view (over the ceiling and the whole floor)how will the take out the tripod from the image?  There are various ways of doing this and it’s the most complicated part of the tour.  There is a really clever way of doing this that will pretty much blend everything in, but most photographers don’t do this.  So you could be left with either a circular part of the floor that looks blurred and pulled in, or some people use a round logo to cover the area.  There’s nothing wrong with using a logo if that’s what you want to see.

Question 4: If using a limited field of view (Cannot see the whole ceiling or floor) how will they handle the distortion?  With this type of tour it will naturally give you a distorted effect.  If you look at the floor and ceiling lines they will bend as you rotate around the room, this can easily be corrected if you know how to do it.

Question 5: Will I get all the files?  Some photographers do not give you all the files, you have to link to their servers to use them, never a good idea as if something happens you could lose all the tours.  Or be charged a fee every year to keep using them.

Question 6: Price, if everything else is right then price is the important point, always shop around but make sure everything else is right first, don’t buy just on price.

Always ask to see examples of the photographers work, then you can judge for yourself what you are going to get.

Unfortunately with some of the questions above, SOME Photographers will have no idea what you are talking about.  There are some amazing photographers out there doing fantastic virtual tours, make you you make the correct choice.

Windows in Photographs

Overexposed Windows

Overexposed windows

 

When photographing images for virtual tours the biggest problem is photographing the windows.  To photograph a complete virtual tour I generally take 72 images, these are stitched together to create the image for the virtual tour.  The problem is the exposure needs to remain the same for all 72 images, this generally means the windows are overexposed and blown out.  If I was to use these images for the tour it wouldn’t look particularly good.  This is shown perfectly in the image above, this was a virtual tour I was doing for the Gwent Dragons rugby ground in Newport South Wales.  You can see a large portion of the image around the window is completely over exposed.  If you compare this with the completed image below you can see a vast difference.  So how is this achieved without altering the expose when taking the images?

windows exposed

The answer is to take a second set of images exposed for the windows, so you will end up with an image with a blacked out room but the windows being perfectly exposed. The trick then is to combine both the images so the windows are blended into the final picture.  To do this take the original image with the overexposed window and duplicate the layer.  Then take the second image and sandwich that between the two layers of the original.  It’s vitally important that all three of these layers are matched up, so if you turn down the opacity on the top layer you can check if the middle layer is lined up with the other images.  Now all you need to do is delete parts of the top layer to blend in the perfectly exposed window.  I suggest when deleting the top layer turn down the opacity of the eraser and carefully blend in the edges. Then just flatten all the layers and the window is now no longer overexposed.

Effective Marketing

Marketing

Marketing image

 

Click on image above to view tour

How effective is your marketing?  I specialise in 360 degree interactive virtual tours, but how effective are they at gaining new clients?

I recently did a virtual tour of a local restaurant to use on their marketing, before showing them the virtual tour I showed the tour to a friend to get their opinion.  I knew they had never been to the restaurant, it used to be an Indian restaurant and although the restaurant had changed hands and been completely modernised they hadn’t been there as they still seen it as an Indian restaurant.  When I showed them the tour they loved the look of the tour, in fact their first words were “That looks amazing I will go there for a meal” so even before the owners had seen the tour it has already gained them a new client.  So that is a very effective use of marketing.

Virtual tours allow potential clients to examine your property in greater detail than using any other format, the viewer gets to decide what they want to see.  Imagine if you had a venue and a client had booked the venue to hold a conference, how effective would it be for visitors to do a virtual walk around the venue before they arrive?  They would know were they had to go when they arrived at the venue, know were the toilets were, the restaurant even the fire escapes, that would be a great comfort to any visitor and a great use of your marketing budget.

More and more companies are using virtual tours as part of the marketing, three years ago virtual tours were a small part of my business, each year the amount of tours I’m doing have increased to the point that they are now the largest section of my business.

Virtual tours work, to find out how much it will cost?  Take a look at my pricing page or feel free to contact me for a no obligation chat.

Reflections

REFLECTIONS

A reflection can cause all sorts of problems when photographing any type of reflective surface.  In the above virtual tour there were a number of things to consider before we even started photographing the subject.

If you look at the wall opposite the shower in the virtual tour you will see a white sink, the reflection from the sink showed up in the shower screen, it made it look like the model had a sink coming out of her back.  The way we got around this problem was to place a dark coat over the sink when we photographed the shower area, hence eliminating the reflection.

The other reflection that was a major problem was the white door frame, there was little we could do about this during shooting so I had no option but to edit out this reflection later, if it had not been a 360 image we could have covered the door frame before shooting but it wasn’t possible in these circumstances.

There are other objects within the wetroom that are highly reflective, I managed to stay out of these in the main but some needed to be edited out later.  With any shoot like this it’s always worth doing a couple of test shots before you start the main shoot.  No matter how much preparation things can always catch you out.  I didn’t notice the sink reflection until I did a test shot of the room, it didn’t notice until the model was in the shower, then it was so obvious, had I not done the test shots I may have missed this and had to edit it out later.  Even reflection in the floors need to be looked out for, any reflective surface needs to be given adequate consideration before any shooting starts.

 

The most difficult thing to photograph

What was the hardest thing to photograph

Depending on the photographer you ask you will get a very different answer.  I do a lot of product photography and 360 degree product photography because of the challenges associated with it.  Every product requires a different problem to be solved.  For instance if it’s a bottle of wine how do you avoid reflections and keep a nice colour to the wine?  If it’s a white object and your photographing it on a white background how do you cope with that?  Both these would require very different techniques.

Although photographing white objects on a white background can be extremely difficult it’s not the most difficult photography I’ve done.  For me the most difficult thing I’ve photographed is a 3 dimensional laser engraved glass crystal.  If you photograph this on a white background it just doesn’t show the engraving, if you photograph it on a black background it’s almost impossible to avoid reflections.

What made the crystal even more difficult was that I had to photograph if 36 times at different positions for a 360 degree product animation.  Add to this that it was not just one item but a series of items and it was an incredibly difficult job to do.  In the end I had to rig up a special canopy in the studio to avoid all the reflections within the crystal.  It proved difficult but as with everything that’s difficult it was a very satisfying job to do.

So for me the most difficult thing I’ve ever photographed was the 3D Crystal, but of course every photographer will have a different answer to that question.  But if you like to solve problems and enjoy a challenge I would recommend product photography, it’s never going to be boring and the satisfaction of solving all the problems and getting a great product shot at the end is well worth the effort.

60 second presentation

What makes a good 60 Second presentation

If you work in a business and attend network meetings you will be familiar with 60 second presentations.  So what makes a good 60 seconds?  I guess the answer to that question will vary depending on who you talk to.  So this is just my opinion.

If you are in a room full of people all doing 60 second presentations how many will you remember when you leave the meeting?  If there are 20 people in the room you will be lucky to really remember 2 or 3 presentations.  So bearing that in mind what is the purpose of a 60 second presentation?  Is it to tell everyone in the room everything you do?  If you can tell everyone in the room what you do in 60 seconds then you don’t do much.

Obviously within your 60 seconds you must tell your audience that your a web designer, bricklayer or solicitor or whatever it is that you do, but it should be impossible to tell people everything about your job, and about how good you are at your job in 60 seconds.

In my humble opinion, the purpose of a 60 second presentation is to be remembered.  Out of all the people in the room you want people to leave the meeting remembering your presentation, so you need to be different, you need to be remembered.  In my presentations I use storytelling as a way of being different.  I recently wrote a 60 second presentation for a colleague of mine who sells coffee, the coffee has the word gold in the title, so rather than just give details of the coffee I took a different approach.  The 60 seconds was about pirates on the seven seas searching for gold, how many people had died keeping the secret of where the gold was buried, finally I revealed that I had discovered the secret and presented the coffee.  It was different, it had a great reception and people remembered it when they left the meeting.

So in my opinion the purpose of a 60 second presentation is to be remembered.

Should Christmas be abandoned

Should Christmas be abandoned?

Should Christmas be abandoned

 

Now don’t get me wrong I love Christmas, not the commercial must buy everything in sight and get into debt Christmas, but the spirit of Christmas, the spending time with friends and family type of Christmas.

For me Christmas is all about spending time with family, opening presents on Christmas morning and spending time playing with the kids and their presents.  I can still remember over 40 years ago having a new scalextric for Christmas and playing with my dad and my uncles on boxing day racing the cars around the track.  My father and most of my uncles are no longer with us, but the memories of that Christmas and many others will always remain, but how different things are today.

It was with great sadness that on boxing day this year I read about all the people queuing outside the shops at 10.30pm on Christmas night ready for the sales on boxing day.  Are we now so consumer driven that the thought of spending a few days away from the shops with family and friends is such a frightening prospect?  What memories are we building for our children, what are we teaching them, that the acquisition of products is the most important thing in life.

How long before the shops will be open on Christmas day?  And sadly WHEN that happens the shops will be full of people shopping for yet more gifts, so should Christmas be abandoned?  No matter how many gifts you buy it will never make up for spending actual time with family.  Spend as much money as you like and the gifts will still be forgotten along with the mountain of other gifts received, spend time with the family and it will last a lifetime.

It’s a sad state when society can thinK of more and more ways of getting us to spend money, and less and less ways of getting us to spend time with family.  So should Christmas be abandoned and Christmas can just be another sales day, should Christmas be abandoned so we won’t need to make an excuse for not spending time with the family.

It is unlikely anyone will read this post as you will all be out shopping.  So for now we will all have to put up with shops being shut on Christmas day, but fear not I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before they will be open and we can forget about pretending that Christmas is special.  So should Christmas be abandoned?  I think it’s sadly just a matter of time before it will be.