Holiday Photosphere

Google a couple weeks ago made a rather nice commercial out of the Photosphere feature, in which you make a 360-degree (more or less) panoramic photo that all gets stitched together on your phone. The holiday spot has someone taking a Photosphere in a (very) large house, with a bunch of family members in the shot.

Now, we all know Rule No. 1 of taking Photospheres is to not have anything too close to you as you take the picture. Rule No. 2 is the fewer people, the better, as people tend to move.

So I waited until things had died down a little bit. My result? Not horrible, especially since I didn't tell anyone to hold still. Check out the full Photosphere pic here. And if you took any over the holidays, be sure to tag them with #photosphere on Google+ so we can all see!


Reader comments

How'd your holiday Photospheres turn out?


You can actually do this in Photoshop as well as panoramics as wide as you want. It works same basic way, but the power of photoshop makes the stitching together much more seamless.

Don't want to be a spoil sport, but it was done on a tripod. You can see the shadow of it at the bottom of the frame at 0:47 - 0:49

I wonder if real estate companies will start using google+ more.
This would be perfect for checking out a new house, and easy for them to create.

I've got the latest CM10.1 on my Vzw GNex. Took a couple of Photospheres to try it out over Christmas.
The family picture turned out OK, but it looks better (fewer squiggly lines) when viewed on the phone compared to the web viewer. The church shot did not work well at all, but it has a lot of straight lines to content with (pews, pillars, altar, etc.).
Are there any good blogs/tips for Photosphere? Should I be trying horizontal then vertical, vertical then horizontal, in a spiral from center, etc? These are the best I got out of taking almost a dozen, and I can't seem to get the hang of it. I'm hoping to go back and get some better ones of the church to post on Google maps for them, but not until I get it working better.

Really? I've got the latest CM10.1 on my VZX Gnex, and it doesn't have the ability to take photospheres yet in the camera app. Did you install a ripped Nexus4 cam app or something?

Nothing special, just downloaded Toro CM10.1 from Cyanogenmod and the 4.2.1 gapps. I didn't do anything else.

there are actually hundreds of places out there with information relevant to taking photoshperes: any photography site/article/blog/forum with any information about taking panoramas.

(start rant; not directed at anyone in particular)

judging by the responses i've seen on this and other android outlets, people are expecting their phones to magically bend the laws of physics and fix everything for them while they take the panorama/photosphere with as little regard as possible to parallax (i.e., spinning in place on their feet). the fact is, people that do this with real gear (DSLRs and special tripod mounts) spend years perfecting their technique and several thousand dollars on gear to get it right. anyone expecting a smartphone to be an effective shortcut are being immensely disappointed.

(end rant)

now, as a photographer that has experience with panoramic shooting/stitching as well as the physics behind it all, here is my one nugget of advice that is a sure fire way to improve your photospheres appreciably:

!!!! DON'T. MOVE. THE CAMERA. !!!!

without going into detail that is completely superfluous for a cell phone camera (entrance pupil, how to find it, what it is/does, and why to rotate around it), the key is to try to keep the camera of your device fixed at one point in space, and rotate the phone (and yourself) around it. i can explain all the details if anyone wants to see them, or perhaps if android central is interested in publishing a 'howto' for photospheres (phil/whoever, let me know), but that's what you need to do.

if you are able to do this, it doesn't matter how close to you objects in your photosphere are; you can take a picture inside of the completely packed basement of a hoarder, with barely enough room to walk (like i did last night), and have scarcely a single stitching error. this is because, by rotating around the camera (more properly, the entrance pupil), you've now rendered every frame from the same exact same point in space. stitching errors occur due to parallax - when things 'move' relative to one another in the frame due to the perspective changing when the camera moves. if the entire image is sourced from the same point in space, nothing moves.

the *best* way to do this, and i know no one wants to hear this, is to use a tripod (hey, no free lunch and all that...). if you have a mount for your phone, center it on the camera of the device and go to town. if you don't have a holder, set the tripod up and just spin the camera around it, eyeballing it the whole time. if you don't have a tripod, any kind of monopod, walking stick, or yardstick (or in my case, an upside down crutch) will do. anything that you can plant on the ground, keep relatively level and in one place, and walk around. orientation of the device doesn't matter, though i find it's usually easiest to keep things centered if i hold it in landscape.

i know the suggestion that you carry something with you somewhat defeats the spontaneity, but trust me when i say that you still have it way easier than the guys that use real gear...

That's good info about rotating about the camera sensor. It always seemed wrong to me to move the phone around--I didn't have the technical vocab to know what was wrong--parallax. Thanks. Seems like the best way would be to have a rotatable ball directly opposite the sensor, resting on the screen. That will help when it's time to use the Y-axis.

This is quite a hard task to accomplish without moving the phone. I have been thinking the same thing when people complain about the stitching errors of these photos!

I do think that the resolution of these photospheres and panoramas could be increased to salvage the extra detail however. With huge storage spaces on most new Android phones, I think a 10mb photo would be completely reasonable...instead of clipping it to 1.5mb or 2000px which these programs currently do after processing.

Do you have any examples of your panoramas and spheres for us to gaze upon, gearmonky?

Thanks for the tips/info, gearmonkey. I know that for some of my photospheres I kept it at arms-length and just pivoted at my wrist, which would keep the camera in relatively the same location. But for the church photosphere that had the biggest issues, I was constantly being interrupted by people asking me what I'm doing and I realize now that my arms were probably moving around too much (such is the problem of having cool, new tech :) ). I'll go back with a tripod and try again.

I took everyone's advice and went back and did the church again. This time I focused on keeping the lens in the same relative position (haven't gotten a tripod stand for my GNex yet). Instead of starting at the altar and then shooting around it, I started at the left side of the church, went up and down, then turned to the right to get more shots, went up and down, turned to the right, (you get the idea) until I'd shot past the altar to the right side of the church. I think the straight pews and altar columns speak for themselves.

Thanks, again to everyone for their tips. I'll keep on trying and pass along anything else I learn.

Any suggestions for a good tripod mount for the GNex, or should I just fashion something out of a velcro band and a hunk of wood from my shop?