The virtual tour industry hasn’t been around for too long, but it has grown exponentially in the last few years, taking the marketing world by storm. One of the big reasons for this explosive growth is the fact that Google has come into the virtual tour business. Google is using the same technology that powers Google Maps to create Google Street View — virtual tours for business.
As a result, businesses— especially in industries like travel, real estate, and education— have been in a massive rush, trying to get their virtual tours out there as quickly as possible. Given this hurry, a lot of photographers have also emerged, all of whom claim to be experts in virtual tour photography.
Many people have a tendency to hire the person who comes at the most affordable cost. However, it’s important to spend some time to figure out whether a photographer is a right fit for your virtual tour. Hiring the wrong photographer can have disastrous consequences — you may even have to end up redoing the entire thing, resulting in a huge waste of time and money.
Before you settle on someone to whom you can entrust your virtual tour photography, here are some questions you should ask:
Do they have experience in virtual tour photography?
This is probably the most important question. The kind of 360 panoramic photos that are required in virtual tours are very different from conventional photos. Unless a photographer has extensive experience in virtual tour photography, chances are you will end up wasting a lot of time. It’s even better if they have experience in your niche — whether that’s hotels, college campuses, or real estate listings. Try to talk to as many references as you can to make sure the photographer can walk the talk.
What equipment do they use to shoot 360 virtual tour photos?
Google has recently lowered the bar for the cameras that can be used to click 360 images for virtual tours. As a result, a lot of photographers out there have a basic “360 camera” that they will tell you is sufficient to produce high-quality images.
However, if you really want a professional-looking virtual tour, you should have a DSLR camera with a minimum of 16 megapixels. The camera should have both an on-camera as well as an off-camera flash, not to mention wide-angle lenses (usually 10mm). An image done with a DSLR has a much higher resolution; there’s also the added advantage of the lens difference. What’s more, processing a 360 image and moderating the images into a proper virtual tour is best done by someone with the skill set to handle professional equipment.
If a photographer compromises on the quality of their equipment, chances are they will compromise on the quality of your images as well.
Do they have the right technical skills to get the job done?
The photographer needs to have a fair bit of knowledge about the technicalities of 360 photos. Here are some of the main things they should be well-informed about:
- The best vantage point for a 360-degree spin
- The correct camera position to achieve proper composition and exposure
- The best lens to be used in each situation
- The best time of the day to shoot the images so that the lighting is perfect
- Staging of the location
- Staging people in different images
- An accurate estimate of how long the entire process will take
Do they have the right personal skills to get the job done?
You are entrusting the photographer with building a key marketing asset for you. That’s why personal attributes like trust, professionalism, punctuality, customer service, and work ethic become important. The best way to validate these personal skills is to talk extensively with as many references as possible.
A virtual tour is one of the most valuable marketing tools you can build today — it gives you a Return on Investment in as little as four weeks. Make sure you hire the right photographer to get a high-quality job done within a reasonable time frame.
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