360 Degree Product Image Overview
360 degree product images are used in eCommerce web imaging to enhance visual communication. This deviates from standard product photography by providing an output in a single file that allows people to click and drag the product to view in a 360 rotation. Additional user interactivity in 360 degree product images includes deep zoom and interactive hotspots that will appear as an object rotates and add additional functionality such as linking to a purchase page, video or highlighting product functionality or a specific feature.
Although the 360 degree product image creation process can be a challenge, this guide will walk you through the steps and discuss the important variables required.
What is 360 Degree Product Imaging?
In short, 360 degree product imaging is a type of product photography that involves a camera, 360 photography turntable and software. The process involves placing an object on the turntable and capturing a set of images as the object rotates over a 360 degree rotation. The result is a series of product images captured at even intervals from 0 to 360-degrees.
After the 360 image capture process is complete, users will then be required to compose the 360 degree product image set into a specialized 360 photography software that can ‘stitch’ the images together into file that displays the 360 animation. 360 animation files are available in various outputs (more on this below) that include differing functionality and are optimized for different online sales channels and social media platforms. Regardless of the 360 product animation output file, the object will rotate and show an all-encompassing 360 degree product view that allows users to view the object from all sides.
What Equipment & Software are needed for Creating 360 Degree Product Images?
Most businesses and individuals have already invested in a camera for their product photography requirements. Chances are your current camera will be perfect for creating 360 product images as well. For those who do not already have a camera, we often suggest an entry level DSLR or Mirrorless camera. More specifically a Canon camera – check out the Canon Rebel T7 or the EOS M50 – both are great options. You may wonder why you don’t need to spend a lot of money on a camera for product photography, without getting into the technical details, the short answer is, many features on the higher end, more expensive cameras are not required when shooting in a controlled photography studio environment. For example, a crop sensor camera will be sufficient (even better in many opinions) as you will never be required to shoot in a low light environment, thus, not requiring to use a higher ISO value.
The lens is a critical piece of the puzzle – and often more important for image quality than the camera itself. First and foremost, the best lens for your 360 product imaging requirements will come down to the type of objects you are photographing. We will break down lens suggestions based on object shooting size and product line:
- Small Objects: if shooting products such as jewelry (smaller than say 2 x 2 x 2”) we typically suggest a macro lens (for a DSLR camera, check out the Canon 35mm macro lens or for mirrorless camera, the Canon RF 35mm Macro Lens).
- Various Size Objects: If you have a wide variety of products you need to 360 image (for ex. shoes and apparel), then you will likely want to consider a Zoom Lens. A great value lens option from Canon is the 18-55mm lens. If you are looking for the best of the best zoom lens, consider the Canon 24-70mm L ii lens. There is many in-between options such as the Sigma 17-50mm that will do a great job. The underlying concept here is Zoom Lenses are optimal when you have a product range that varies in size, as you can zoom in/out based on the size of the object (rather than having to move the camera/tripod closer and further from the product being photographed).
- Standardized Object Size: If you are imaging products that are relatively close in size, or if you are simply looking for the best and sharpest results, consider a Fixed Lens. The term Fixed Lens, also referred to as a Prime Lens, has a fixed focal length (meaning no zoom). These lenses are often more affordable and have great optics. If considering a fixed lens, take a look at the Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM lens. This is often considered the best affordable lens Canon has ever made and will be amazing for product photography.
Lighting is critical to ensure for high quality results. Also, for those looking to create 360 product photography with white backgrounds, correctly setting up lighting will save a lot of time editing images after the 360 shoot. You may already have invested in lighting – which can be in the form of strobes or continuous lighting. This will likely work for 360 product imaging. If you do not have lighting, we suggest looking at a continuous lighting option (better and easier for non-professional photographers). Key considerations when sourcing lighting will be:
- CRI: Try to find lighting with a CRI rating of 95+. This will ensure you are able to achieve maximum color accuracy (learn about CRI in lighting)
- Color Temperature: Bi-color or color adjustable lighting is beneficial as you can adjust color light temperature to more accurately depict colors. While not a requirement, it will prove more functional than a fixed color temp light. If looking for a low cost light at a single color temperature, look for something daylight balanced (5,500-6,500 Kelvin)
- Dimmable: The ability to dim lights will also prove beneficial (especially in the case of highly reflective objects).
As far as type of bulbs, we strongly suggest LED’s – these operate at low temperatures, have long life ratings, are flicker-free and are reasonably priced.
Last, and most importantly, the type of light will be an important consideration. Lights can come in the form of free standing lights (ex. light on stand + soft box diffuser) of light boxes. Light Box’s should be considered if objects are highly reflective and there is a high chance of outside light contamination however for about 90% of products, free standing lights will be best (learn more about Light Box vs. No Light Box in Product Photography). The benefit of free standing lights is the flexibility. Users will be able to manipulate light position, angle and distance to achieve better quality 360 degree product images. If choosing free standing lights, we would suggest at minimum three total lights and suggest a soft box diffuser to use over top of light.
When shooting product images in 360 degree, the camera must maintain a consistent shooting position. This can be achieved through the use of a tripod. A good heavy duty tripod is a great investment for any business or individual who shooting product photography. Consider an aluminum tripod with ball head and quick release plate such as this one.
Camera Capture Remote (optional)
As mentioned above, the camera must remain in a fixed position when shooting 360 degree product images (remember, the object rotates while the camera stays still). In order to ensure the cameras position remains fixed, we suggest using a capture remote. A capture remote allows users to trigger a cameras capture command via remote control – so users are not physically touching the camera. Capture remotes are available in form of wired and wireless options (see wired option for Canon camera here). Alternatively, you can consider an automated 360 product photography software that will trigger the camera via computer control.
360 Photography Turntable
Turntables for photography are available in multiple different options and include differing functionality. These include Motorized Turntables, Shutter Release Turntables, Computer Controlled Turntables and what we will focus on in this article Manual Photography Turntables. Manual 360 Product Photography Turntables are often the most cost-effective option, can ensure for precise shooting angles and can be easily made! The drawback of manual photography turntables is users are required to manually position the object to each shooting angle during the 360 product image creation process – which often requires more time and effort.
Learn more about Choosing the Best 360 Degree Product Photography Equipment
Making a Do-it-Yourself 360 Product Image Turntable
Another option for budget conscious photographers or for those looking for an affordable way to get started with 360 product images is making your own turntable. This can be done very easily and for under $25!
The first requirement for a DIY 360 Photography Turntable is a rotating base. A Lazy Susan is a tray shaped platform that rotates on a set of bearings. Although not specifically designed for creating 360 degree product images, they are perfect when looking to make your own turntable (see here).
When shooting a product in 360 degrees, you need to ensure images are captured at consistent angles. For example, if you wish to shoot 36 images per 360 degree rotation, you need to capture a single image at every 10-degrees. A measuring tape, along with a pointer positioning device (see below – using a pen to help guide turntable positioning) can help you achieve consistent shooting angles. You will want to place the measuring tape around the circumference of the lazy susan to act as a guide (see here).
White Turntable Top
Assuming you wish to shoot 360 product images on a white background, you will need to cover the Lazy Susan with a white platform. Any white material will do the trick (ex. white paper) however we suggest a circular white top such as a Cake Board (see here), white foam board or a white acrylic circle (acrylic has reflective properties which can be beneficial in 360 photography). Simply place the top on the Lazy Susan
Steps for Shooting 360 Degree Product Images
Now that you have your camera, lighting and photography turntable, you are ready to get started shooting 360 degree product images.
Step 1. Set up Turntable and Camera
You first want to ensure the turntable is on a flat surface and remains fixed (ex. doesn’t freely rotate). After doing so, you may wish to measure to find the center of the turntable and put a small mark – this will help with correct product positioning.
You will then want to place your camera (on a tripod) so that it is shooting straight on to the center of the turntable. then adjust camera shooting angle / positioning as required.
Step 2. Place Object in Center of Turntable
After doing so, you may wish to measure to find the center of the turntable and put a small mark – this will help with correct product positioning. Place your object on the center of the turntable and pre-rotate the turntable by hand while visually watching to ensure object has been placed correctly (read tutorial on centering an object when shooting 360 object photography).
Step 3. Set up Lighting
We suggest a three soft box style light set up. This would entail two lights up front on either side of the camera pointing towards the object and a top down light (this will help eliminate shadows and make achieving white backgrounds easier). Behind the turntable should be a white background (ex. white sheet of foam board).
Step 4. Shoot 360 Product Images
Typically we suggest to shoot ~36 frames per 360. Using the measuring tape placed around the circumference of the product turntable, make a mark at every 10 degrees (ex. this could translate to say every 1” or so pending on the circumference of your turntable).
Suggested camera settings for 360 product image capture:
- Shoot with your camera in Manual mode (typically denoted by the ‘M’ on the cameras shooting mode dial). Learn more about Shooting product photography in manual mode
- Aperture: The higher the aperture value the more depth of field (that is the product in focus from front to back). Typically a value between 10 and 14 should be sufficient. Finding a balance between acceptable level of depth of field and the sharpest aperture is in your best interest.
- ISO: Set this to the lowest value (typically 100 or less). As you are shooting with your camera on a tripod you wont need a high ISO (high ISO’s can lead to grainy and poor quality images).
- White Balance: Some more advanced photographers may wish to set a custom white balance however for the majority of you, using Auto White Balance should suffice.
- Shutter Speed: This will be the variable setting you will need to play around with. Start with a Shutter Speed of 1/60 and then:
- If too dark (underexposed), move to 1/50 or lower
- If too light (overexposed), move to 1/80 or higher
- Focal Point: It is very important you set your lens focus mode to manual focus. This will ensure the camera will not adjust focal point during 360 image capture. Set your focal point so that it is focused on the center of the object.
After camera settings are optimized for your lighting, you can now begin with the 360 image capture sequence. Connect your camera shutter trigger. You will capture the first image, adjust the turntable, capture the second image, move the turntable etc. until the entire 360 product image set has been captured.
Step 5. 360 Product Image Editing
Pending the results you are getting directly out of your camera, you may be required to edit your 360 product image set. There are many applications available for image editing such as Photoshop, Lightroom, GIMP and even our own Shutter Stream 360 Captureless Software – which allows for batch 360 image editing (make a change to a single image then apply to the entire set of images).
Step 6. Compose 360 Product Image Set to Create a 360 Product View
The last step in the 360 degree product imaging workflow is to import the 360 image set into a 360 product view creation software then output your web-ready 360 view. There are a handful of software’s available that can do this – these range from web-applications with monthly or yearly fees (that will host the 360 file) to stand-alone desktop applications that allow you to create the 360 degree view locally then host on your own servers and / or embed into your website. Note 360 product views can be created and output in multiple formats including HTML5 (interactive), Animated GIF (non-interactive) and MP4 (non-interactive).
Learn more about Choosing the Best 360 Product Photography Software
Conclusion - How do I make a 360 Degree Product Image?
Making 360 degree product images is attainable for users of any skill level. The process can be challenging however with the right equipment, a DIY 360 Photography Turntable and understanding of the important variables required for imaging success, the 360 product image creation process can be easy!
Learn more about Iconasys’ industry leading 360 Product Photography Equipment & Software.