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How to include people in your virtual tour photos? Advantages and disadvantages

Should you include people in virtual tour photos
Should you include people in virtual tour photos?

Should you include people in virtual tour photos and how do you do it?  Here are advantages and disadvantages, and how to include people in your virtual tour photos without ghosting.

Most virtual tour photos don’t include people, or if they do have people, the faces are often blurred out.  However, at their core, most virtual tour photos are intended to increase sales, and most non-360 advertising photos do include people.  In the same way, including people in a virtual tour photo can make the location more attractive, particularly if the location is intended to be open to the public (as opposed to, for example, a private residence).

The shot above is for a piano school.  You can see that adding people to the photo made the location appear more attractive.  Here is 360 version of the photo on Street View, which I shot with a mirrorless camera (you can zoom in to see the full resolution, which is limited to 14K on Street View):

Some photographers assume that you must not include people in virtual tour photos, for good reason: if you use someone’s likeness without their permission, you can be liable to them under the laws of most countries.  In fact, Google can blur faces automatically for Street View.  However, as long as you have the consent of the people in the photo, you absolutely can include people in virtual tour photos, even in Street View photos.

HOW TO ADD PEOPLE TO YOUR VIRTUAL TOUR PHOTOS

The easiest way to add people to your photo is by using a 360 camera.  One challenge is that if you shoot a bracket for HDR, any movement between shots can appear as ghosting or double images.   Fortunately, there are a few 360 cameras with built-in anti-ghosting HDR capabilities:

  1. XPhase cameras ($979 and up):  XPhase is the highest resolution 360 camera, with a resolution of 135 megapixels.  XPhase automatically takes multi-shot HDR photos with 3 or 6 shots.  Remarkably, all XPhase cameras also have a built-in anti-ghosting algorithm so that you can stitched HDR 360 photos without ghosting automatically on your desktop or even on your phone.  In the photo below, I used the XPhase to take a handheld HDR shot with people walking around me, and yet there is no ghosting.

  1. Ricoh Theta cameras: all Ricoh Theta cameras can take multi-shot HDR photos (I believe) if you shoot in handheld HDR mode, it will apply an anti-ghosting feature to most movement, including that of your subject.   If you are using the Theta Z1, you can also use HDR DNG mode to avoid ghosting.  In the sample below, I used HDR DNG but the waves show no ghosting.

  1. Insta360 One X, One R, and One X2:  Insta360 One X, One R and One X2 can take HDR photos without ghosting.  The trick is to shoot HDR in JPEG+Raw mode.  An HDR shot in JPG will have ghosting but when you shoot in JPEG+Raw, the Raw photo will not have ghosting.

  2. Kandao Qoocam 8K: the Qoocam 8K does not have an anti-ghosting HDR mode but you can shoot in DNG8, which is a burst of eight DNG photos with identical exposure, to increase the shadow range via median stacking in Kandao Raw+ software.  Kandao Raw+ can avoid ghosting during the stacking process.

But what if you want to use a mirrorless camera or DSLR?  You can also shoot HDR without ghosting (as in the piano studio sample I posted above) but the process is trickier and will be covered in Virtual Tour Edge 2.0.