The world of 360° virtual tours has not been around for very long, yet it has taken the marketing world by storm. In the midst of all the commotion came a lot of growing pains for the industry.  A lot of shifting and uncertainty and Google has a lot to do with it.  You see, virtual tours for businesses really picked up steam thanks to Google and Google maps.  Google wanted to extend the virtual mapping system we have all become so familiar with and bring them inside of businesses.

In doing so, a lot of photographers came out the woodwork who wanted to try their hand in this new and booming industry.  So you had all walks of life come in not really sure what to expect. Unfortunately, you the consumer have to weave your way to find the Google Trusted Photographers who really take their jobs seriously. To cut to the chase, we have come up with a simple checklist of questions that you should definitely ask your photographers while making a decision.

Don’t Always Go For the Cheapest

You may think that a virtual tour is a virtual tour no matter who shoots it for you.  That kind of thinking can really burn a hole in your wallet.  Why?  Because choosing the wrong photographer and paying for their services only to have to do it all over again is senseless.  Do it once and pay more for better quality, but at least you’re only paying once and avoiding all the headaches.  That being said, let’s get to the questions you should be asking.

1.What Type of Equipment do You Use to Shoot Your 360 Tours?

This is an important question because depending on what type of equipment is being used makes all the difference between a professional virtual tour and a REAL AMATEUR one.  Yes, until recently, Google has lowered the bar and allowed almost anyone to be able to offer a virtual tour for your business.  That is a real problem.  Because along with letting anyone participate in the program of becoming a Google Trusted Photographer, they have opened the floodgates to a myriad of cheap equipment to get it done.

You want to be sure that your photographer uses a DSLR camera to create their virtual tours.  A DSLR camera will create high definition imagery all to which is essential for a virtual tour.

Along with the boom of our industry, has come a lot of cheap “360 cameras” that anyone can buy which offers to stitch the photos for you, evaporating about half the time in the lab room.  We have learned that these gimmicky cameras come nowhere close to what a DSLR camera could produce.  So most people just starting out in our industry figure that all they need to do is purchase a “360 camera” and they are good to go.  So make sure your photographer is not using a “360 camera.”

Needless to say, we shoot our virtual tours with DSLR cameras.

2.What Rooms Will You Shoot and What Rooms Will You Not Shoot?

Unless this question is not brought up during your walk-through, there will be a lot of uncertainty and almost always it will be you, the customer who will lose in the end.  That is because some photographers are going to want to skip some areas.  Sometimes they have good reason to, but other times, it’s just pure laziness.  You see, for some photographers, getting the entrance of a room is enough, but for other photographers, they will not only go inside the room around the entrance, but they will take that extra step and go to the back of the room as well.

Make sure you understand how deep into a room the photographer will go and whether they will charge extra for going the extra step.  Because one they leave, your tour is done.  You will not see the final result until your virtual tour is live.  It would be then that you may discover that you had a lazy photographer.

In our case, we want you to be thrilled with your virtual tour.  We do not cut corners.  If there is reason to go deeper inside the room, you can be sure that we’ll do it.

3.How Many Virtual Tours For Businesses Have You Already Shot?

If a virtual tour photographer has only done less than 10, you are going to want to be weary.  I recall my first 10 shoots were a little cringe-worthy.  That is because I was still learning and coming across new challenges to which I didn’t know how to solve at the time.  Now with over 100 virtual tours, we can safely say that we have seen it all.  Experience counts!  But even if your photographer has a decent sized portfolio, that is not always enough.  Make sure to actually look at them.

While reviewing your photographer’s portfolio, here are some things to keep an eye on:

  • Every virtual tour on Google maps gives credit to the author, or creator of the tour.  Make sure the person’s name or name of their company lines up with the photographer.  This is because some photographers may end up showing you virtual tours that they did not create themselves.  This may be because they simply don’t have anything to show you, or are not proud of their work.
  • Click around the tour, go from room to room.  Is the transition seamless?  Does it feel natural?  Or is it confusing and not organic feeling.  Don’t bypass this.  This is important.  This demonstrates the photographer’s ability to create a story.  These decisions are done at the day of the shoot, while still inside your store. This is where mistakes could be made, and what separates the good from the bad. If while clicking around from room to room, you are left feeling more confused and frustrated, rather than walking away with a great experience, it’s time to look for another photographer.
  • How is the lighting? How is the quality of the virtual tour?  Be very judgmental, because it could be your virtual tour that they do next, and it’s unlikely that they will change their bad habits of shooting a virtual tour.
  • Are there things that you shouldn’t be seeing?  Such as trash filled garbage cans, dark rooms, people’s faces, personal information for everyone to read? Rooms that don’t look clean?  Blame this on the photographer, and not the business owner.  It is our jobs to make sure the tour is in perfect condition for a photo shoot.

4.Should Our Place of Business Be Free of Staff and Clients When You Conduct Your Virtual Tour?

A just question. Assuming that your photographer has a good amount of experience (See question above), they will be able to offer their suggestion.  You are the one who makes the ultimate decision, and people’s faces will always be blurred out.  That being said however, sometimes virtual tours benefit from looking busy and sometimes virtual tours look more professional being empty.

5. Are You Insured?

Okay, so we threw another one to the list. If your virtual tour photography company or freelancer is not insured, you are taking a big chance. Should they come to your property and something should happen, you may be eating up the cost if they are not insured.  Don’t take that chance, ask them straight away if they could provide proof of insurance. We have seen and heard things that you wouldn’t believe.  In one instance, a photographer was shooting a convenience store. The photographer got to the end of an aisle, right at the turn and walked away from their tripod. These professional tripods are large and the legs really extend out, so if you’re not careful, you’re liable to trip over one of the legs.  Well, that’s exactly what happened. A senior was walking by holding a case of water with both hands and tripped over the tripod legs, fell down and was injured. Shame on the photographer for walking away from their equipment, but even worse for not having an insurance policy for their business.

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