My 360º Panoramas

Updated: Jun 23, 2020

This Blog is about the methods I use to create my 360º Panoramas. I did a lot of online research and found that procedures vary from the simplistic to the downright complicated and expensive. I'm sure that my technique isn't perfect, and I'm missing some of the fine nuances of top-end panoramas, but this is what works for me and I'm very happy with the panoramas that I create.

NOTE: You will find that I have created links for some of the tools that I use, I am not specifically recommending them as there are many other similar products on the market. These are simply the tools that I use and the links are a reference point for researching your own tools.

A flawless 360º panorama is a great deal harder to produce than it can first appear. There are lots of smartphone apps that promise easy and 'great' panoramas and with minimal skill it is possible to create a 360º panorama, of sorts, with your mobile phone. The resulting panorama is likely to be low resolution and probably have some noticeable stitching, blurring and exposure issues, particularly with straight edges, tree branches and clouds. These mobile panoramas are passable for use in social media and for viewing on a mobile phone but for anything else, they are not of sufficiently high quality. In order to create a totally realistic panorama that actually makes you think you're sitting and looking at the scene around you, there's a lot more involved than you might think.

A 360º panorama is created by 'stitching' together many photos taken within an imaginary dome containing the camera lens at its centre (Nodal Point). Using your eye as the nodal point, you are photographing every part of what you can see in a 360º x 180º dome around you. Each photograph is overlapped with the ones adjoining it and then combined, in software, to produce a perfect single image of the scene inside the dome. There are a whole host of factors that work together to frustrate the production of a seamless and perfect dome. The alignment of each image has to be the same as the preceding and future ones or your dome will quickly begin to distort and things will go seriously awry. An egg-shaped dome is unlikely to produce the quality of image that you had initially hoped for. This is where the smartphone created panoramas tend to fail, it is almost impossible to hold a phone and turn through 360ºx180º and maintain the position of the lens in the same plane throughout. There are some incredible software applications that will attempt to stitch together a smartphone panorama while the user is taking the images. Using a grid system, these applications attempt to guide the user where to point the smartphone as you move around inside the sphere, and automatically take the individual photo for you when the AI detects a clean overlap. In theory, this should work very well but it rarely produces a quality 360º panorama because of the low resolution.

Below is an example of a screen shot from a 360º panorama taken using my Nikon D7500 (left) compared to one created with an iPhone 8 camera (right). Each image is the start/end point of both panoramas and you can see that there are significant problems with alignment in the smartphone panorama. I made several attempts to create the smartphone 360º panorama but couldn't stop the roof line from going out of alignment. There are other misalignments along the roof at the front of the villa and a double air con unit on the side and, for some reason, the parasol is floating in mid air.