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I have a question about 360 degree photography.

Is there a camera, or a technique, that allows us to take a 360ºx180º photo without showing our hands or the tripod below the camera?

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Actually, most of the 360x180 panos you see are created by taking multiple images and stitching them together as panoramas. (See: How are virtual tour photos taken?). Erasing the tripod is a combination of shooting and post-processing techniques.

Shooting

Most of the tripod and panohead can be eliminated from the pano by simply shooting two nadir (straight down) shots, taken 180º apart in rotation. This allows you to have enough "clean plate" to use masks and layers to erase most of the panohead's vertical arm so that the tripod is in a relatively small circular area of the cube face.

Then, after you've shot everything, you take the camera off the tripod, or move the tripod and tilt it, to get a "clean plate" area where the tripod was, and then use that to patch over the area in the panorama.

Post-Processing

I use the viewpoint correction tool in PTGui and the "clean plate" shot to cover where the tripod went, as I don't have to leave the stitcher and go into Photoshop to "fix" the nadir. The viewpoint correction can take into account the moving of the camera's viewpoint and the tilt downwards to cover the floor.

PTGui also lets you specify mask areas before stitching to help eliminate most of the tripod and any potential ghosts/clones (assuming you have enough overlap to provide "clean plate").

There are a variety of other techniques, without PTGui, to do the final erasure of the tripod or the blank area left from masking, such as mapping out the cube faces with a tool like Pano2VR or Hugin, or adjusting the pitch -90º to put the "hole-in-the-floor" in the center of the pano where there's the least distortion, and then using Photoshop/Gimp cloning or patch or content-aware fill or masks/layers to erase the tripod. If you set the tripod down on a relatively featureless "floor", you may not even need the clean plate shot, and can just use the patch tool to erase the tripod.

Some folks don't bother with tripod erasure. They simply cover up the tripod area with a round logo image. :)

Hands/Feet/Hats

Hands are typically not an issue, because you make sure you don't have your hands in front of the lens when you do this. Hats and shoes are a different issue, however, if you are working with a circular fisheye lens with 180º HFoV, but you can try to remember to take off your hat, and the "clean plate" thing works for your feet if you're hand-holding.

Using an entry-level APS-C camera with an 18-55 kit lens

Using an 18-55 kit lens with an APS-C entry-level body is... not optimal for shooting these types of panoramas, and certainly not handheld without a panohead. There may be parallax issues, but coverage is the main problem. At 18mm, you will probably have to take far more images to completely cover the sphere for a pano than you anticipate.

The FoV of an 18mm lens on an APS-C camera in portrait orientation is roughly 45ºx63º. But you also need sufficient overlap to ensure a good stitch. To cover 360º in yaw, with the camera in portrait orientation (to get more vertical coverage) you need 10 images, and three or four rows, so 30-40 images minimum to cover the sphere, and you might have to add zenith and nadir shots.

Even a rectilinear ultrawide lens, like the 10-18 will still require multiple rows, as well as a zenith (straight up) and nadir (straight down) shot. Fisheyes tend to be the lens of choice here, and can simplify things down to 3-8 shots, depending on how precise you can be about rotating the camera around a specific spot in space, and how much overlap you need.

Fisheye lenses

I got sucked into buying my first dSLR to learn how to do VR panos, because I realized a fisheye lens was much more convenient. It has a much bigger FoV than a rectilinear lens of the same focal length. If you're ok with manual lenses (no electronic communication with the camera, so manual focus/aperture and you can only shoot in M or Av and there's no lens EXIF) and don't plan to go full frame, the lowest-cost one you can probably find at the moment is the Samyang 8mm f/3.5. Also known as a Vivitar 7mm, Opteka 6.5, or 8mm Rokinon, Bower, Phoenix, Pro Optic, etc. etc. You can cover the sphere in 8 shots (6 around, zenith and nadir) with one. This is a different design and a completely different lens than the 8mm/2.8 (Sony e-mount/Fuji X) and 7.5mm fisheye (micro four-thirds) Samyang makes for mirrorless mounts.

See also:

  • do you have links to your own 360/whatever panoramas? – aaaaa says reinstate Monica Mar 7 '17 at 3:07
  • flickr.com/photos/inkista/albums/72157622678822852. I called them cubics for a while, since when I started doing them, the QuicktimeVR Cubic format was the principle file format used. :) Flickr isn't the best platform for displaying these interactively, but I was already set up there... – inkista Mar 7 '17 at 4:39
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By "360 photography", I'm making the assumption that you want a spherical view (aka "photosphere").

The Panono 360 (https://www.panono.com) is a throwable camera taking a complete spherical image, suspended in the air. With this kind of "camera", no hand/foot and no tripod in view...

panomo 360

If you want something more classic, you can use a camera on a tripod for all your shoots and remove the tripod for the one looking down (manually holding the camera). It shouldn't be very tricky to align afterwards.

You might also try using no tripod. Unless you are making Gigapixels panorama, 360 views don't require hundreds of images. You may be surprised by the quality of hand-holded panorama, given a little practice.

If the ground allows it, you can also try the "delete and replace" feature of Photoshop (or other tool) to erase the image of the tripod.

Regarding hands, the technique don't put them in front of the camera might help. Of course being invisible could also be helpfull (same thing goes for your feet).

  • Thanks! I didn't know that it was possible to take photospheres manually. I am a beginner in photography; my camera is a Canon t5 with the 18-55 mm kit lens. Do you think it's possible or it is done with other lenses? Do you use Photoshop to merge them? Thanks again! – Guilherme Cruz Mar 6 '17 at 13:21
  • You can do photoshere with almost any kind of lens and with quite a few softwares. The choice really depend of what you want to do. If you want some advice, try it "your way" and come back to us once you have identified what you like and what you want to improve. – Olivier Mar 6 '17 at 13:57
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The area directly beneath the camera in a spherical panorama is called "the nadir", and as you've pointed out, it will normally show parts of tripod and/or a black polygon for the un-imaged area:

Unpatched nadir with the tripod and unimaged area visible

Usually you either restrict the viewing angle so that the user can never see the nadir, or you "patch" it to replace the area with something else. Here is the same nadir patched with a company logo:

Patched nadir

I wrote a free, open source panorama editor recently that's made specifically for equirectangular (360° x 180°) panoramas, and one of its functions is to patch the nadir/zenith areas:

https://dizzylogic.com/panotwist

Give it a try, could be the simplest solution to your problem.

  • Just me, but that's more capping than patching. But I do the PTGUI viewpoint correction thing with a handheld nadir shot and the tripod moved out of frame. – inkista Jul 18 '18 at 17:02
  • Naturally, if you are stitching the panoramas manually one by one, you could choose the PTGUI way of nadir patching, and you'll get a result that's more visually complete. But there are situations when it's not an option, such as when you have a bunch of completed panoramas with unpatched nadirs, and you want to fix them in one go. Or when you have an automated stitching procedure for large volumes of panoramas, and manual masking cannot be done. In my case, I had an automated camera that took 4 planar shots at 90 degrees increment per panorama, and camera could not be tilted down for example. – PlinyTheElder Jul 18 '18 at 17:41

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