360 product photography
360 photography (also referred to as 360 product photography, 360 spin or spin photography) refers to a photographic technique by which a series of photos give the impression of an object rotating. These photos can be displayed as an interactive animation on web pages and apps, allowing a user to control the rotation of an object. The photos can also be displayed as an infinitely looping GIF or video.
360 photography is used primarily by ecommerce websites, to give shoppers a more realistic impression of a product than static images. The use of interactive 360 spins has been linked to an increase in sales conversions and lower returns of unwanted goods.
Types of 360 spin
There are 3 types of 360 photography spin: single-row spins, multi-row spins and twin-axis spins.
Single-row spins are the most commonly used type of 360 spin because they are the easiest to create. One row of photos is usually sufficient to give a lifelike impression of an object. These spins can be moved left and right only. They are often composed of 36 images (each separated by 10 degrees), though any number of images can be used. More frames per rotation will feel smoother; fewer frames will feel more jumpy. While the cost of 360 photography falls, spins with 72 or more frames are becoming more commonplace, for their smoother, sophisticated experience.
Multi-row spins (also known as 3D spins) can be rotated up and down as well as left and right. They usually have 3 or 4 rows of photos, with 12 or 18 images per row. Each row is photographed at a different camera angle, allowing the product to be viewed from multiple perspectives. Multi-row spins require more time and effort to photograph, so they are suited to products that benefit from being viewed from above.
Photographers typically capture 360 photography in a photography studio by using a turntable, camera, tripod, lights and a white background. To obtain a pure white background, a white lightbox or light tent can be used to help light the object evenly, though these can flatten the image, so some photographers use a white sheet or white card in the background.
Turntables used by 360 product photographers are usually powered, for automatic, precision rotation. A product is placed in the centre of the turntable and a camera, typically mounted on a tripod, captures photos of the product as the turntable rotates. Some turntables pause the rotation when each photo is captured, ensuring a sharp image. Basic turntables rotate continuously, which can cause slightly blurred photos but are suitable for capturing video, which can later be converted to a 360 spin.
Some turntables can be connected by USB cable to computer and/or camera, allowing remote shutter release or USB to capture the images. Such automation speeds up the photography process, which is an important consideration when hundreds or thousands of products are to be photographed.
Further automation can be achieved by employing robotic arms to move the camera up and over an object, to quickly capture multi-row spins. Robotic equipment is typically employed by specialist 360 photography studios, enabling them to capture high quality photos in rapidly. Such equipment has helped reduce the cost of 360 photography to approximately 20-40 USD per product for simple products such as shoes, when photographed in large batches. Prices are higher for reflective objects, large objects and garments worn on a model or mannequin.
All-in-one lightbox machines are a simpler method for capturing spins. These machines have an automated rotating turntable with lighting all around and above. They connect to a camera and computer, for automated capture.
Amateur photographers can capture 360 spins on a low budget by using a simple lazy susan instead of a powered turntable. The photographer can manually rotate the turntable between each frame. This is a slow process, thus impractical for large volume of making it an uncommon method of capturing 360 spins.
The final method of creating 360 degree spins is by using 3D CAD modelling software. A product model can be constructed by a skilled 3D model designer, then rendered as a series of static JPEG/PNG images ready for use.
Once all the images for a complete rotation have been captured, they normally require refinement in a photo-editing program with batch editing capability. The typical edits required are to crop closer to the object edge, mask out any background objects, adjust the colour balance to match the products true colour and adjust colour levels to whiten the background. Most ecommerce sites wish to display 360 spins against a pure white background, which is not usually achieved direct from the camera. Batch editing can be applied in dedicated 360 photo software or in common photo editing programs such as Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom.
If adjusting colour levels and colour balance is insufficient in obtaining a pure white background, background removal may be required, either with an automated tool or by manual masking by a human editor. Professional photo retouching services are often employed for this manual work.
Standalone scripts are installed on a web server, with some basic configuration. Images should be resized and optimized either before upload or on the server by an image processing service. Some ecommerce sites automatically resize and optimize images on upload, which can accelerate the configuration process. If using an ecommerce platform there are plugins to make it faster to configure and embed 360 spin scripts in product pages.
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- "360 product photography represents a new way of capturing the images". Clipping Times. Retrieved January 4, 2019.