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There are several inexperienced people that I need to take photos of rooms so I can create 360° x 180°-spherical panoramic images from them.

The problem is, that they always misunderstand what to do.

I tell them to keep the camera at one point and rotate it slowly around it's own axis, making overlapping photos. And to also include ceiling and ground, all overlapping. If they are not overlapping, they should create more photos from angles in between.

What I get:

  1. The images are blurred because they are in a hurry.
  2. There are not enough images, stitching does not work.
  3. They move around while taking the photos.

How do you tell an inexperienced person how to take the right photos with their mobile phone(without a tripod or anything similar) so you can actually use them for stitching 360° x 180°-spherical panoramas?

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    You've explained it to them but they are not doing what you say. This is a communication issue, not a photographic one. – Itai Jan 31 '18 at 1:19
  • I tell them to keep the camera at one point and rotate it slowly around it's own axis - Do they understand that they have to hold still when actually taking the photo? – flolilolilo Feb 2 '18 at 12:56
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It sounds like you need to show them, not just babble at them.

It might also help to have them do this once in a controlled situation (your office, their office, the lunchroom, etc) with you watching, then have them do the stitching together of the panorama. Or maybe just watch you do it once. Either way, they get some appreciation for what it will be like to use the product of their work.

The more people understand why they are told to do seemingly arbitrary things, the better they will do them. Don't just treat them as dumb robots to be programmed.

  • I cannot show them, but you have a point. They are inexperienced, so I need to give them experience. I will tell them to create a 360°-panorama and request them to look up how to do it. – Alex Jan 30 '18 at 13:19
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    @Alex I cannot show them — can you not record a video of yourself performing the steps, and upload it to YouTube? – scottbb Jan 30 '18 at 13:40
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    @Alex That doesn't answer my question. You don't have to use YouTube to distribute the videos. You don't have to show your face or anything identifying. You can mask vocals, modulate them, whatever. It's easy to make a corporate training style video that covers the steps. So, besides privacy-revealing issues (which can be mitigated or eliminated), or specific access control, are there reasons why a training video won't work? – scottbb Jan 31 '18 at 14:13
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    I don't understand your hostility, but now I understand the underlying problem your question is trying to resolve. As @itai has commented, this is not a photographic problem, this is a communication problem. Based on your response, your communication problems are much more fundamental than explaining panoramic steps. Good luck. – scottbb Jan 31 '18 at 14:36
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    Also, youtube has a private mode that lets you share it only with particular users. – AJ Henderson Feb 1 '18 at 21:13
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You need to take your photography hat off for a bit and put your training hat on. You've been to school - you know what's needed to successfully teach someone something.

They need to understand first the value of learning - why do they need this knowledge? What's in it for them? (WIFM)

BTW - they need to trust that you're the right person for this as well.

So let's assume that you've established trust and credibitlity and successfully communicated the "WIFM". Now you have to teach.

Hands on learning works best, and it's also best if you have training scenarios. As has been suggested, I think it's best to have them watch someone else do what they need to do, and then emulate that behavior in a trial run. You can then further advise where they are deficient.

Boom, now they have a skill that you can leverage.

As you can't be there physically to teach - you need to provide resources that take your place. A video is a great resource for this. You might also explore supplementing this with a training manual.

As for being on the web, this is for business, no? Hire a model/actor. No one is saying you have to be the one to act - but you should produce a resource that can be used by your target audience. There's additional privacy that you could leverage within hosting platforms. YouTube, Vimeo, Wistia, Brightcove, Vidyard...the list goes on. You're not the first to request private access to content - so the solutions are already there.

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As a professional technical writer, I tend to break things down into numbered step procedures, with as specific and unambiguous instructions as possible. However, whenever you think you've made something idiot-proof, they go and build a better idiot. Your biggest trip-ups will be assumptions you don't realize you've made.

And if you're not a SME (subject matter expert) on the procedure you're describing then get really good interviewing skillz and make sure you have access for follow-up questions/answer from your SME. Be really good at taking notes, whether that requires video/photo/audio recording of your interview or not.

But generally speaking, here are the things to consider:

  • Learn how to actually shoot a 360x180 panorama in the way you're describing. You seem to be vastly underestimating the skill, effort, and number of shots required to cover a 360x180 pano with a smartphone camera.
  • Be as specific as possible. If you need coverage and overlap, tell them how much. Frames should overlap by 30%, both horizontally and vertically. If they should rotate around something, what should they rotate around, and how do they keep the camera stationery around that point (plumbline, whatever). If they need to use a level of some kind, what level do they use and how?
  • Define anything that may be unfamiliar. Like the no-parallax point you apparently know nothing about. It's in the lens, not the camera, btw.
  • Be as clear as possible. Do not use idiom. Do not use ambiguous language. Make sure words you use cannot have multiple meanings or be interpreted contrary to what you think you said.
  • Consider hiring a professional technical writer, preferably one with experience writing for translation if you're instructing in more than one language.
  • Make a demonstration video or use graphics if you think verbal descriptions aren't working. Consider hiring professionals who do this kind of communication for a living.
  • Consider providing these folks with 360 cameras.

360x180 panorama photography isn't easy and cannot be done correctly by most casual photographers, let alone completely inexperienced beginners. If it were, there wouldn't be a boom in 360 cameras.

See also:

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iPhones can make panoramas directly. If your users are familiar with those, you can tell them to do the same, but instead of doing the steady twirl take 15 photos absolutely still on their way around instead.

  • Can they create 360°x180° sphericals? – Alex Jan 30 '18 at 19:41
  • Not iPhones. Did you happen to mention this requirement in your question? – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Jan 30 '18 at 21:08
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Good luck, but I don't think it's possible.

In my experience making unversed people do anything remotely technical (in photography and many other fields) is impossible unless they either care about it (in which case they'd probably do it properly from the start), or you give them money.

So your best bet is to pay them.

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Try the free Google Street View application. The stitching is not ideal, but at least you won't have problems with missing or blurred photos. And you immediately get a complete 360x180 sphere, very convenient. The application controls the camera and hints the user where to point next, it can't be easier than that. Tell them to stand in one place and you might get acceptable panoramas.

Google Street View for iOS

Google Street View for Android

creating photo spheres in Google Street View app

  • Good idea as such. I tried it out and unfortunately the results are quite bad, as the app does not notify about camera movement and does not enable manual mode, so many areas where the light conditions significantly change cannot be stitched and we get the random objects in the air, that were not there before. – Alex Feb 2 '18 at 10:23

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