I belong to a couple of bonsai clubs, and for this year we wanted to do a virtual show. I'm looking to build a small site where I can drop 30-50 virtual bonsais across several pages so visitors can rotate, zoom in and out, and enjoy details of the trees. Exactly (or very similarly) to what a virtual museum would do with their collection.

It occurred to me that it shouldn't be very difficult to find a way to photograph every angle of a tree and then stitch together all pictures. Similar to what they used to do with those 3D scanners in the film industry...or even what Google Street View does.

I then realized that a 360° photo is actually the opposite of what I need: I want to rotate the model while the viewer is static. So I tossed away all the 360° apps, including tools to do virtual shows of houses, and 360° cameras.

I then focused on 3D mapping tools. It seems that if you want textures in 3D models, the new hotness is ARKit, but I'm not sure if that's what I want. I ended up trying Trnio (in the iOS App Store for $4.99) (which came recommended in pages like this one).

It works by either uploading 20-30 pictures from your Camera Roll to their cloud, or using the accelerometers and the live camera to take as many pictures as you want to build the model. I tried to use both methods with a tree on a rotating table but it seems that the Trnio algorithm uses the background to figure out the stitching and the result is horrible (Also, I'm not sure how I would use those models in the end because they can only be exported them to SketchFab.)

Do you know of any way of achieving that without investing in an expensive 3D scanning rig?

  • \$\begingroup\$ btw, those "3D scanners in the film industry" use 240 full-frame DSLRs & flashes built into a fixed hardware frame the size of a room & hard-wired into a dedicated modelling computer - not something your average consumer could ever afford ;) [I've stood in one many times, though i've never operated one.] \$\endgroup\$
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Mar 22, 2021 at 18:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, I was thinking more of the flat bed scanners for small and medium objects, not the ones to do Gollum-like simulations. :-). A bonsai is about 20-80 cm tall (8”-32”) including the pot, so I don’t need a huge rig. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ender
    Commented Mar 22, 2021 at 20:00
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Is the desired end result a 3D model of each tree? Or a series of (30-60) photos from different angles of each tree? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 22, 2021 at 23:46
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ To clarify what I mean: this is a 3D model from a physical object and this is a series of photos from different angles \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 23, 2021 at 10:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ Those examples were right on point. Thanks! If you want to convert that into a full-fledged answer, I'll vote for it, otherwise I'll choose the one by Ray. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ender
    Commented Apr 15, 2021 at 17:52

1 Answer 1


If it doesn't have to be a smooth continuous transition from one view to the next, and if you can write HTML and JS, you can do all the work in the web page.

  • Calibrate the turntable with degree markings around it (e.g. every 15° for 30 positions).
  • Mount the camera securely and use a remote shutter.
  • Take a photo in each position.

In the web page, write JS to switch to the next photo when the current one is clicked on the right side, and to the previous photo for the left.

You could even take the circles of photos at three or four levels (make sure the camera is always aimed at the same spot in the centre of the target), with clicking at the top or bottom changing the view vertically.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This answer together with the more detailed model by @Saaru Lindestøkke helped me understand that a nearly-continuous transition made of multiple pictures is as good as my original idea and much, much less difficult and cumbersome to obtain. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ender
    Commented Apr 15, 2021 at 17:54

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