In the early 2000s, the first digital cameras hit the market. In those days, we paid hundreds to take low resolution pictures with hardware that could only store a few photos at a time! While digital photography has improved vastly and today, the ability to create 360 degree spherical images, where the finished product shows every direction, is not only possible but it’s becoming increasingly accessible. Today, we’re looking at different methods you can use to create your own 360 degree photos and 360 degree video. We’ll look at methods that use both dedicated cameras, and well as the camera on your smartphone!
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Where can I use 360 degree content?
ThingLink provides an interactive platform that allows users to create engaging and immersive virtual tours using 360-degree content. By uploading 360-degree images or videos, users can design comprehensive virtual experiences, seamlessly linking different areas or scenes together. Within these panoramic visuals, interactive tags can be embedded that offer additional information, images, videos, links, or even embedded documents. These tags turn a standard 360-degree view into an interactive exploration, providing context and depth to the viewer’s experience. The use of 360-degree content in ThingLink’s virtual tours fosters a more lifelike, engaging environment that can be applied in various fields like real estate, education, tourism, or training, offering viewers a realistic perspective and interactive journey through a location or concept. The example below shows this in action.
In ThingLink you can also save your 360 scene or tour in virtual reality mode, meaning that you can view it on a VR headset for a fully immersive experience.
What is the difference between photospheres and panoramic images?
Panoramic images typically cover a wide field of view horizontally, often 180 degrees or more, but do not necessarily cover the full 360-degree horizontal and vertical field of view. They are often displayed as a wide, flat image that stretches across the screen. Panoramic photos can be created with photo stitching, piecing together a series of photos taken along a single horizontal plane, or they can be captured with special panoramic cameras.
Photospheres encompass a full 360-degree field of view both horizontally and vertically, forming a complete sphere. They allow the viewer to look up, down, left, right, and all around, as if they were standing in the center of a sphere. Photospheres are typically viewed using special software or online platforms that enable the viewer to navigate the entire sphere. When flattened into a two-dimensional image, they usually appear distorted, especially near the top and bottom. Photospheres can be created by stitching together images taken in all directions, including above and below the camera’s position, or with specialized 360-degree cameras designed to capture a full spherical view.
In summary, panoramic images provide a wide, often linear view across a single plane, while photospheres offer a completely immersive, spherical experience, allowing viewers to explore the entire scene as if they were physically present.
New Pano to 360 by ThingLink: a free tool for creating 360° images
Previously, it was possible to use the Google Street View app to create a photosphere. Many ThingLink creators used this approach to successfully create 360-degree images for virtual tours, such as the Budapest museum education team in this case study. However this app was sadly deprecated in June 2023. At ThingLink, we researched a wide range of 360 camera apps, but none provided the same stitching software that Street View had incorporated to make 360 imaging truly accessible and easy to use. To respond to this need, the ThingLink team developed Pano to 360.
Using AI, the tool blends the panorama together at the zenith and nadir of the photo as well as at the seam between the two ends. You will have the most success if your device’s camera has an ultra wide-angle lens but any device with a panorama image setting will work.
This tool is free for everyone, and you don’t need to be a ThingLink account holder or subscriber. It is compatible with panoramic photos taken on Apple iphones, android phones and in fact all android/ios mobile devices. There is no need for a plugin or for downloading from the app store or Google Play. Simply upload your panorama and in seconds you will have a 360 photosphere ready to download and use as you wish!
The dedicated support page here provides a quick video tutorial on how to use the new tool.
Dedicated 360 degree cameras
On the more accessible end are the immensely popular Ricoh Theta and the newer Ricoh Theta S. These small “fisheye” cameras fit in the palm of your hand and capture VR ready content with the click of a button. Check out a compilation of images and video captured with the Ricoh Theta S in the embed below. Other possible makes of these 360 cameras are the Samsung Gear 360 and the Insta360.
360 video cameras
GoPro Max for 360 Video is designed to take 360 video, and is designed to be as robust as the rest of the GoPro range. Some of the models mentioned above also have 360 video capability.
How do I edit my 360 images?
You can easily edit your raw 360 images using either a platform such as Photoshop, or the popular Canva platform, which is ideal for beginners with both free and pro plans and pricing.
Try the free Pano to 360 converter
The Pano to 360 photosphere converter is free to use for anyone, no ThingLink account required! Upload a panoramic image to see it in action.
Where can I learn more?
Join one or more of our friendly social media communities to see user-generated content and great examples! The ThingLink Facebook Education Group and the ThingLink LinkedIn Community would love to welcome you.