The complete DIY 360 product images guide to creating those stunning interactive photos
In my previous article – Easy 360 degree product photos on your smartphone, I showed you how to use the super easy Foldio360 for the complete mobile solution.
If you do not have the available cash flow to buy this convenient all-in-one unit or your product exceeds the 250mm and 5kg turntable – I have done the research for you to DIY 360 product images for less than $50 AUSDL.
Before we get started breaking down all the equipment and options available – let’s look at the basic process involved.
- Place the product on a turntable in front of a backdrop
- Control the lighting for both the product and background
- Incrementally move the turntable to capture a series of images from all angles
- Edit all the images by using a custom created filter on your smartphone
- Upload the images to a 360 product viewer program and embed on your website
What you need:
Your existing smartphone
Some great news that you already know – you have an extraordinary camera in your iPhone and Android smartphone. This wouldn't be a cheap DIY guide, without making use of the smartphone and resources you already have available!
The Samsung smartphone has an incredible virtual shot mode. However, walking around the product that allows you to walk around a product - however the photo captures a 360-degree view of the entire surrounding background.
Tripod and/or smartphone attachment
- Keeping the camera perfectly still avoids your 360-degree photo becoming jumpy and wobbly
- You could even rest your smartphone against something in the fixed position
These come in a variety of sizes to cater for different weights. My preference is the manual SNUDDA Lazy Susan style from Ikea at $15. The cheap motorised turntable I purchased online, did not spin completely flat – resulting in an ordinary result!
For the more convenient, easier to use Foldio automatic turntable:
Mini Studio or backdrop
There are many cheap, foldable Lightbox options on eBay. – complete with two or three light sources and material backdrop (sweeps).
Larger products will require white paper or fabric that sweeps from underneath the turntable to against a wall or similar. This combined with bright lighting behind the product, creates a seamless background.
360 degree product viewer to store your image
Even though this is the DIY 360 product images guide - you can't display the images without a viewer.
You will need to have it hosted somewhere and obtain the <embed> html code to include in your website page. There are a number of options available – some feature rich options are available through subscription. Feel free to check out Imajize or WebRotate.
The cloud based option that I am going to demonstrate is Cappasity. You can set up a free account with limited features (more than enough to get started) and ability to display 30 3D images. You will need to download their Easy 3D Scan program on your PC or Mac and upload either your incremental images or video to produce the interactive 360 degree photo that can be embedded on your site.
Prepare your product
- I know this may sound silly – clean and dust your product. You do not want to pack up everything to find you didn’t do this properly. If you are a perfectionist like me – this can be devastating. Learn from my mistakes!
Prepare the turntable
- To create a fluid 360-degree image – you will need to pivot the turntable incrementally between each image. I used a flexible tape measure held in place by putty around the edge to mark every inch.
- Cut out a circle of white paper to cover the top of the turntable and hold it in place with double sided sticky tape.
- A piece of glass or reflective tile under the product can create a nice reflection.
- Locate and mark the centre of the turntable.
Prepare the lightbox
- Unfold the light box and place the backdrop sweep inside, attaching it to the rear top edge behind the turntable. I actually replaced the included fabric sweep with paper – no ironing required!
- TIP: If you iron the fabric – depending on the material, be sure to iron under a cloth to avoid it melting to your iron!
Alternative sweep attached to a wall
- Larger products that do not fit in a Lightbox and can be positioned in front of a sweep attached to the wall. Simply sticky tape the top edge of the backdrop paper to the wall to create a curved, seamless background.
- Using the Lightbox, position the lights to shoot through the transparent sides and top. This softens and diffuses the light to minimise harsh shadows on the product. If using just the sweep – then a piece of paper or kitchen baking paper in front of the light can work well.
- Position lights to separately light up the background and the product.
- Light the background to be bright enough to over-expose (complete white) the background to avoid the rear edge of the turntable being visible in the images.
- Light the product, using a light off-centre at the front (key light), side lights and an optional overhead light. Experiment with the lighting further, once you start playing with the brightness (exposure) on your smartphone camera.
- TIP: Not enough lights – use a mirror to bounce and reflect light back into the shadows on the product
- Place your smartphone on a tripod at the same height as the product. Images that are taken from higher or lower than the product may introduce lens distortion – creating an unrealistic image of your product.
Capture the images
- I recommend manually controlling the camera to lock in the lighting (exposure), colour balance and focus. In auto mode, these can vary between photos. My recommendation for the iPhone is ProCamera by Cocologics – download here. Android users – you already have great manual control. However, a great choice is FV-5 by FGAE.
- Position a pointer of some description on the table to align with the turntable markings as you manually spin the turntable between each shot.
- Using ProCamera app on the iPhone – you can long press on the timer icon to open the advanced timer. Tap on Open ProTimer to set up the automatic image capture every three seconds. This provides enough time to move the turntable and not have to keep tapping the capture button.
- You can use the attached earphones as a remote shutter to avoid potentially bumping the smartphone on the tripod.
- There are different opinions on how many photos are required to create a smooth, interactive 360 image. Cappasity requires between 60 to 144 JPEG images.
An easier turntable and capture method!
Don’t we love an easier alternative – I do
- Purchase a cheap $25 automatic turntable on eBay and set the product up to spin by itself. For the best result – you can’t go past the article I wrote on easy 360-degree product photos using the Foldio360. The turntable I purchased for this article did not rotate level and there is an evident bump in the end result!
- Long press the product on the smartphone screen and swipe up/down on the iPhone or left/right on the later Android smartphone to set the focus and adjust the brightness
- Attach the earphones to the iPad and hold the volume minus button to capture a burst of images.
- Connect the smartphone to the desktop via the charging cable and open the DCIM folder containing the images. Copy all the burst images to a folder on the PC. On the iPhone or iPad, the burst images display as one image and cannot be batch processed using the Polarr app mentioned next.
- This process means you will need to batch edit the images on either a desktop program like Adobe Photoshop using a created action or Picasa.
Batch edit the images on your smartphone
- Polarr app available on both iOS and Android allows you to edit a photo, save the process as a filter. At the time of writing, the iOS version allows you to open numerous images and apply the saved filter. This ensures that the edits are consistent and saves you a heap of time.
- The typical editing process I follow is cropping, adjusting light then any required colour correction.
- Create the filter by tapping the Save icon - select Format JPEG, tap on Watermark to upload and apply a watermark image. Tap on Save Edits to save a filter. Type in a name – where it says ‘Name this filter’. Make sure you select Crop as well (turned off by default). Lastly, tap Save to My Filters.
- Click on Open image and long press on the first image until a tick appears on the image. You can now tap on all the images to be batch edited.
- If you are familiar with Picasa (no longer supported by Google) you can edit your first image, copy all effects, select the group of images then paste all effects.
- TIP: The benefits of batch editing in Polarr, instead of using the photo editor in the 360 viewer; are many more editing options and the ability to include a watermark. Download Polarr on App store or Google Play. In this tutorial, I am using the free version of Cappasity. You need to have a paid account to remove their watermark.
Upload photos to Cappasity 360 product photo viewer - also has an easy to use photo editor
- Download the Cappasity Easy 3D Scan software for Mac or PC and create a free account
- Click on Import Files and select between 60-144 JPEG images.
- In the next preview screen, crop to the desired aspect that will look best in the final destination – website or social media platform.
- Next, Cappasity provides an option to edit the images. You have everything here, from white balance, setting the black point to brightness, contrast, levels and curves.
Share and upload to your website or social media
- After you finish using the editor – click on continue to let Cappasity process your 360 image. You will then have a preview to share directly.
- You have the option to auto-rotate and allow a zoom function. The paid accounts offer more options, including high definition zoom.
- To obtain the embedded code for your website – log in to your account to see the library of your 360 degree product images.
- Depending on your website – you add this code as a html module to display.
360 product photography can be quite difficult to DIY. This article was written to help you find the cheapest possible way to transition yourself from your happy-snap product photos to the next level.
For ease of use, the Foldio360 by OrangeMonkie is an all-in-one solution that removes all the time and technical barriers. For those of us, who are cash flow poor and resourceful – all your need is your smartphone, a phone holder, turntable and Lightbox on eBay and make use of the free account on Cappasity.
Let me know how you go – I would love to see your results and feature your products in the comments below.
These articles are a great resource to learn a mobile photography specific technique or tip. Your fastest transition to becoming the confident and creative smartphone photographer you want and deserve to be is a strategically designed course.
An impactful and engaging WOW image consists of a strong subject, composition and lighting. The real power and fun transforming the image is then photo editing. Recreate that story, feeling and intention lost in the photo capture by strategically applying visual literacy and mobile apps to enhance your results and passion for photography.