Creating photo spheres

Some of this information applies only to devices running Android 4.4.

If you use Photo Sphere mode in Google Camera, you can photograph the world around you, creating fully immersive 360-degree panoramas, wide-angle scenic shots, and even what’s above and below you. You can also create photo spheres manually with a DSLR and third party panorama software.

Creating photo spheres with an Android device

  1. From Camera's main screen, swipe to the right and touch Photo Sphere .
  2. Hold your device vertically and close to your face level close to your body but positioned where you can both comfortably see the display and also tilt the phone to capture a full sphere.
  3. To capture the scene, adjust the camera angle so the blue dot is centered inside the doughnut. Hold the camera steady until a single frame of the scene appears.
  4. Stand in the same place, rotating your camera slowly following the dots throughout the entire area you want to capture. You don't have to hit all of the dots but the more you hit, the more accurate and detailed your photo sphere will be.
  5. To create a full photo sphere, you'll need to complete a few rotations (typically 5) tilting your camera up or down to capture all areas.
  6. At any time while creating a photo sphere, you may click the undo button to retry the previous shot. This is useful if someone walks into part of your scene.
  7. To begin creating the photo sphere from the photos you just captured, touch the check mark at the bottom of the screen. It may take a minute or so to complete.
  8. To view your most recent photo sphere, swipe left on the main camera screen, and touch the Photo Sphere icon to pan automatically through the shot. You can also drag to move through the captured scene.

Tips for creating great photo spheres with your Android device

With just a bit of practice, you can create amazing 360 degree photo spheres.

  • Hold the phone vertically, not sideways. This will minimize or eliminate any missing areas at the top and bottom.
  • Hold the phone at face level close to your body (but still positioned where you can both comfortably see the display and also tilt the phone to capture a full sphere).
  • There are two different ways to approach creating a photo sphere. Choose whichever feels more natural to you.

A) Slowly rotate around keeping your phone as close to your body as possible while still being able to see the screen.

  • Capture photos around the horizon first
  • Then, slightly tilt the phone up or down, keeping your phone roughly in the same location
  • Repeat the above process to capture several rows of photos (most devices will require five rows for a full sphere)

or

B) Use either a real or an imaginary tripod.

  • If you’re using an imaginary tripod, rotate or tilt the phone while you move around it, rather than you rotating the phone around you.
  • Using a real tripod is not essential, but can be especially helpful when indoors, in darker environments, or when capturing imagery that includes objects less than 30 feet away.

Creating photo spheres with your DSLR

  • You may create photo spheres with higher resolutions than may be possible from many Android devices.
  • You have more control when taking each individual photo comprising the photo sphere -- including with exposure, ISO, and other settings.
  • With your DSLR you can use a fast lens with a wide field of view, which enables you to capture imagery with greater clarity than would be possible with a mobile device, particularly in challenging light conditions.

Here are the steps to create and share photo spheres with your DSLR

  1. Take photos: With a narrow aperture (giving a high depth of field), take a series of overlapping photos that together cover a full 360°. You can buy tripod mounts made specifically for this purpose.
  2. Capture location: If your camera features GPS capabilities, ensure both that this feature is activated and that you have a GPS lock when capturing the photos. If your camera does not have GPS capabilities, make a note of the location you’ve photographed so that you may add this information into the image file later.
  3. Stitch the photos: Using panorama stitching software of your choice, create a 360 degree panorama and save the image in jpeg format.
  4. Add the photo sphere XMP metadata:  Using this site or software that supports the XMP standard, add XMP metadata to the jpeg. 
  5. Upload:  Ensure that you have checked Upload my photos at full size in your Google+ settings.  Then upload your photo spheres to Google+
  6. Import your photo spheres:  Go to Views, and click the import-from-camera icon .  Choose an album containing photo spheres, and select any photo spheres you wish to import.  Add the location of each photo sphere if prompted.

For info on panorama metadata and other details of particular interest to developers, visit the Google Developers Photo Sphere site.