How to make a 3D tour and 360 panorama

3D tour

How to make a virtual tour and 3D tour? How to make a 360 degree panoramic photo of the real estate? Such questions are asked by those who need to demonstrate the business, real estate object or any territory on the Internet. Of course you can use the services of a professional photographer and order shooting 3D panoramas from specialists.

But you can create a virtual tour for the site yourself. In this article, we will walk through all the stages of work in detail. We will discuss the nuances of 3D panoramic photography and editing the tour. We will consider the types of costs for the necessary equipment and basic mistakes.

Types of Panoramas

Flat panorama – photo panorama in the classical sense. It is a large format photograph made of two or more frames. Several images are combined to increase the angle of view. To get such a panorama, you need to take a few photos, but so that the adjacent frames overlap each other by 20-25 percent. Then the photos will be glued together in any graphic editor. As a result, you get a “long” photo, which holds much more information than an ordinary photo.

Spherical panorama (3D panorama, 360 panorama photo) – panorama, which has a view angle of 360 degrees horizontally and 180 vertically. It is projected on the inner surface of the sphere with the help of special software. The viewer is sort of in the center of the sphere and can rotate it as desired and see everything around. Spherical panorama, is able to convey a complete picture of the surrounding space. Because of its features, a spherical panorama can only be viewed on a computer or mobile device.

Cylindrical panorama is a panoramic photograph with a horizontal coverage of 360 degrees. The vertical viewing angle of such a panorama is limited. Actually, cylindrical panorama is a special case of spherical panorama, which lacks zenith and nadir (top and bottom parts).

What is a virtual tour

You can make a virtual tour out of several spherical panoramas. There are several specialized applications for this, which we will discuss below. 3D panoramas place transition points (arrows) from one scene to another. By clicking on the arrows, the viewer moves from room to room. Thus formed a virtual 3D tour of an institution (museum, restaurant, factory) or area (city, park, landmark).

What is the purpose of the virtual 3D tour?

3D panoramas can tell you a lot more about the scene than video. That is why they are used in many different spheres of activity.

  • The creation of virtual tours, as well as possible, is suitable for the sale of real estate. With the help of a 3D tour it is easy to show an apartment or a house to a future buyer.
  • A panoramic tour of the hotel or restaurant will help to show the interior and attract customers.
  • Spherical panoramas made in historical places or nature reserves can be used for educational and tourist purposes.

In general, we can give examples for a long time… The purpose of a virtual tour is to demonstrate a room or territory. It is especially nice that it is possible to organize a presentation remotely. To do this, all you have to do is to post a virtual tour on a website or in social networks.

3D tour

Equipment for panoramic shooting

If you consider the types of costs for creating virtual tours, the equipment for panoramic shooting is the most tangible part of them. Of course, you can use a 360 panoramic camera that makes a spherical panorama in one click. Or you can shoot a 360 panorama on your phone. But the quality of virtual tours is greatly increased with the use of professional equipment. Here is a complete list and description of all the necessary accessories.


The main tool is, of course, the camera. In fact, you can shoot the spherical panorama with absolutely any camera, even with a soapbox or cell phone. But the quality of the result depends on 50% on the right choice.

It is best to use a DSLR, and even better if it has a full frame sensor. Such a sensor receives more light, so the photos are of better quality than those with a smaller sensor. In addition, full frame cameras have a higher number of pixels and the resulting panorama resolution will be higher.

Why a DSLR is better:

  • Interchangeable lenses.
  • Shooting in RAW format gives more possibilities in further editing the pictures.
  • Flexible settings for sensor sensitivity, exposure, white balance.
  • Shooting in manual mode.
  • Shooting with an exposure bracket.
  • The ability to use the remote shutter control.

All these settings will allow you to get a high-quality result and will greatly simplify the process of assembling and processing panoramas.


To get a spherical panorama, you need to photograph the entire space around you. This is much easier if the angle of view of your lens is as high as possible.

So, for example, having a standard camera with a cropped factor of 1.6 and a kit lens with a focal length of 18 mm, you will have to take three rows of photos, 12 photos in each row. Step photography is 30 degrees, plus photos of the zenith and nadir and a total of 38 frames.

With a fisheye lens (fisheye) is enough for only 3-8 frames, which is much less. Just keep in mind, the fewer frames in a panorama, the lower its resolution. But modern SLRs allow you to make high-quality panoramic photography and a fisheye lens.

Panorama head

Another important tool is the panoramic head. This accessory allows you to mount your camera on a tripod in such a way that it rotates around the nodal point of the lens. This reduces the parallax between adjacent frames to zero. The panorama is stitched together without any problems.

The nodal point is the point on the lens axis at the intersection of the optical rays:

If you rotate the camera around the nodal point, the subjects in the background and foreground will not move relative to each other, i.e. the parallax will be zero. This is crucial for successfully merging photos into a panorama.

How to use the panoramic head and adjust the nodal point will be discussed below.

Leveling platform

Level base – serves to adjust the level of the horizon. Mounted on a tripod under the panoramic head. Due to the limited tilt angle, the level base may not always be effective (e.g. in mountainous terrain). This element can be dispensed with at all if you set the level by adjusting the length of the tripod legs. This method is a little more complicated and takes more time.


The choice of tripods is huge and almost every tripod will do for panoramic photography. But there are a number of requirements that will make the job easier:

The tripod must be stable to eliminate shaking during shooting. Some models vibrate even when the camera shutter is running. More often than not, stability means a lot of weight. Therefore, you should look for a happy medium when reliability will not interfere with the convenience of transportation.

It is convenient when a tripod has a retractable central column. In some shooting conditions it is a must.

On a tripod head, sticking out handles that get caught in the frame are undesirable. Or rather they can be, but later you will have to spend extra time on fixing them in Photoshop.

Shutter button

If you use the shutter button when taking pictures, you might get jolts from touching it. That’s why a remote is essential. It can be either wireless or with a cord. The first is more preferable because it can be used to shoot at a considerable distance from the camera. This is useful in confined spaces when a photographer’s shadow or reflection gets in the frame. You can also take pictures without the remote control by using the delayed shutter release function. However, in this case the shooting time will increase significantly.

Shooting spherical panoramas

Now we come to the question of how to take a panorama picture. The best way to shoot is on a tripod with a panoramic head. These accessories will help you rotate your camera 360 degrees without any problems. But there are other ways to take panoramic pictures.

Types of panoramic photography

On a spherical 360 camera

Using a panoramic camera greatly simplifies the process. Such cameras have two or more lenses and capture all 360 degrees at once in one shot. There are even 360 cameras for smartphones.

The result is a ready panoramic photo in an equidistant projection. The gluing stage is completely eliminated. It would seem to be one plus, but that’s not quite true.

Budget spherical 360 cameras give a small resolution to the image, unlike panoramas taken with a DSLR.

The photographer cannot be close to the camera when shooting. Once the tripod is set up, you need to leave the room or hide behind a large object to stay out of sight of the lens.

Handheld without a tripod

If you only have a camera at hand, panoramic shooting without a tripod is possible. Note right away that this method is suitable for experienced photographers. It’s best to use a fisheye lens, which is enough to shoot 3-4 frames.

The idea is to rotate the camera around the nodal point. Only in the role of the panoramic head will be the hands of the photographer.

It is worth choosing the most comfortable position, because it will not be possible to intercept while shooting.

For clarity, you can tie a rope with a weight on the lens (at the level of nodal point).

Place a small object (button, coin) on the ground for reference.

Place the camera over the reference point so that the weight almost touches it. The rope should be taut at the same time.

Take the first picture and move around the marker to the next picture. Keep your camera tilt unchanged as you shoot the entire row. Don’t forget to overlap adjacent photos. To be sure, take extra shots (3-5) of each angle, so as to choose the best one later on.

Take a photo of the zenith and nadir.

This is the end of the photo shoot. It seems that there is nothing difficult. But it will take practice to get the desired result.

On a tripod with a panoramic head

This method is the most reliable and gives the best quality results. All the list of necessary equipment is given above. Below we will take a look at the process of panning with this method.

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