I’m going to talk about the best software for 360 photography, share my own workflow and show how I created the Little Planet photographs in my Andalucia in 360° series. Please note, I am not affiliated with any of these companies.This is software (and hardware) I’ve been using for years!
First of all, I’m going to distinguish between the photographs achievable with cameras like the Insta360 One X and the Ricoh Theta Z1 versus the megapixel panorama approach that I normally use.
The one shot cameras are impressive, more so now than when I bought the Insta360, but the megapixel panorama approach gives more detail and more dynamic range. It’s a lot more work, but I favour the megapixel approach.
The kit I use consists of a Canon 5D Mk III with a Canon EOS 8-15mm Fisheye lens. The trick with a full frame camera is to maximise the number of pixels used for the photograph. So at 8mm the lens offers a perfect circle, but I can squeeze more detail out. of the shot by setting it to 12mm knowing that the overlap in four photographs, north, south, east and west, will be sufficient. to create the panorama. For more detail still, I could go for 6 shots around at 15mm. I set the aperture to f8 as the lens seems sharpest at this setting.
I have used a few different panoramic heads, my first was a Manfrotto 303 SPH head which I liked a lot, but it’s built like a tank and weight twice as much so I tried Nodal Ninja heads instead, eventually settling on the Nodal Ninja 6 with the Nadir Adapter. I also use the EZ Leveller 2 in preference to the Manfrotto 338 for exactly the same reason, the Nodal Ninja kit is lighter and works just as well.
Shooting a 360° Panorama
It’s not just about the best software for 360 photography, to avoid problems in processing, use a decent sturdy tripod. Set it absolutely level so that when you rotate the camera around the non-parallax point, the shote remain on the same level. Watch out for click board floors as unless they are laid on a flat surface have sufficient yield in them for the weight of the photographer to cause a millimetre or so difference.
If you’re shooting four or six around, have the camera pointing slightly up so that your zenith is included in the shot. One less thing to worry about in processing. I put small coloured markers around the area the tripod is standing over with a coin dead centre under the head. This is so that I can photograph the nadir (the area under the tripod) knowing that I am photographing exactly the same spot and I can use the coloured spots as matching points in processing so that my nadir is aligned correctly.
For the horizontal shots I bracket the exposures so that I can be sure of getting decent dynamic range in the finished image.
Shoot four shots at 12mm with 90° rotation, or six shots at 15mm with 60° rotation, followed by the nadir.
Processing a 360° Panorama
I use Lightroom, Photoshop and PTGui to process my panoramas. This combination is the best software for 360 Photography, It does the best job of any software I’ve encountered, hands down. The process I use is this..
- Lightroom – Adjust white balance if needed, apply basic processing and copy the settings across all the shots you will use for the panorama,
- PT Gui – Import the photographs you need to make up the panorama and follow the recommendations in the setup assistant. This should give you a perfect 360° panorama. View the output and look carefully for stitching errors – areas where a line that runs across two original images have a break. tiled floors, ceilings all the straight lines in the panorama need to be inspected carefully.
- Photoshop – If you are lucky, you’ll have only a couple of straightforward stitching errors that can be easily sorted out in Photoshop. I’ve found cloning works in some cases, transform can be used to “bend” lines to meet in more difficult cases.
I’ll be putting a video out soon detailing the entire workflow I used to create the panoramas featured here. Link will follow!
Creating Little Planets
When I do this kind of work professionally the output is usually a virtual tour consisting of several panoramas. I use Pano2VR or 3DVista to create Virtual Tours. I’ll be writing another post going into more detail about these two applications. For the Andalucia in 360° Project I wanted to create the output as Little Planets. For this I use a Photoshop plugin called Flexify. It gives me the ability to adjust the position of the Little planet so that it makes a pleasing composition and the size of the subject in the frame
Best Software for 360 Photography
Here’s my list of the best software for 360 photography.