Thursday, 12 March 2020

Keeping Business Visible During Coronavirus with Hi-Fidelity 360° Photography

Yes, the Coronavirus crisis won't last forever. But before it ends we will see months of working from home, self imposed Quarantine and Social Distancing. I often attend three four, up to six events in a week here in Sydney. Last weekend became my cut-off. To do our bit helping stop the spread of Coronavirus my partner and I have decided to curtail all non-essential social activity and to minimise being in groups and crowds. Getting out there; being part of the community, this is how we experience life in Sydney and we do the same when travelling, it's how we see the world. And we won't be doing any of that for.. well we don't quite know just yet, no-one does. We won't stop looking though, online, and we won't stop planning for future activities when the crisis is over.
A Portfolio of Hotels and Travel imagery in Hi-Fidelity 360  photography
A Portfolio of Hotels and Travel imagery in 14 Hi-Fidelity 360° photographs
This is where Hi-Fidelity 360° becomes an important part of your businesses future. People like being there, and want to see what things are like - but right now, well.. it's not so easy. So Hi-Fidelity 360° photography is the closest thing to actually being there, it can ensure your business remains visible during this crisis and beyond, by virtually bringing your customers and clients directly into your world; be it hotel accommodation; an art gallery and the latest art exhibition; a museum, a fashion boutique. Anywhere people go. You can bring people from the safety of their homes into your business using Hi-Fidelity 360° photography, they can view your premises at their own leisure spending as long as they like on any part of the 360° image. This is an aspect I enjoy over videos set narrative. Then call or email to make purchase or arrange an appointment to visit. There is only one caveat; the photography has to be seamless to create the illusion of being there and this requires technical and creative artistry, not just  photography, Hi-Fidelity 360° photography.
Uluru and Sails in the Desert Ayers Rock Resort
Uluru and Sails in the Desert Ayers Rock Resort - Click for 14 images Virtual Tour
It's still new and a little different, and now is the time to add this interactive 360° virtual tour photography to your marketing and social media outreach; and it's a lot less scary than being left behind or the virus. I can create effective Hi-Fidelity 360° photography virtual tours of your store, your room, your house, your fashion, all can be shown interactively, just like being there. Click the links and enjoy the experience yourself, then call me to discuss your needs.

I am taking local bookings in Sydney, Australia, now.

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White Caviar Life - Galleria Milan in Hi-Fidelity 360° Photography
White Caviar Life - Galleria Milan in Hi-Fidelity 360° Photography
Kent Johnson, Sydney, Australia - The World.
0433 796 863

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

360° Virtual Tour Photography Is The Next Big Thing - Don't Miss Out

360° Virtual Tour Photography Is The Next Big Thing - and it's here already.

"Do I need 360° Virtual Tour Photography?" Do you remember the time when small business were asking themselves "Do I need a website?" or even way back, "Do I need a fax machine?" In the mid 2000s when everyone was going online; and phone and fax were no longer enough. I built myself a site to sell Vintage Audio equipment in 2006, and it became #1 in Australia and #3 worldwide - for years. I thought it would be months before my first sale, it took a week! Goodbye to paying Ebay to sell my gear, and I sold my equipment at better prices. At my day job, I was managing a second hand building yard specialising in Architectural Heritage. It took a while but eventually I convinced the owner into letting me build a small website, six pages of  just our core product lines with some good photos. Business picked up - I still had a job! A few years down the track I built a complex database driven e-commerce site for the same business which really took off. They even started shipping overseas, much to the owners amazement.
Desert Gardens Hotel Room, Uluru N.T. - photographed for a Hi-Fidelity 360° Virtual Tour by Kent Johnson Photography.
Desert Gardens Room - Uluru N.T.
Do you need a website? I don't think anyone in business seriously questions this anymore. The real question is, what sort of website what will it be, look like and what will it do? One of the things that made my websites successful, was the quality of the photography I delivered as part of the sales package. The photography made a difference and it is still a key component to success on the web. Technology never stops changing, and that goes for the way we use photography too.
Cronulla ocean pool - photographed for a Hi-Fidelity 360° Virtual Tour by Kent Johnson Photography.
So the new question is no longer do you need photography on your website and marketing activities. It's do you need 360° Photography for your website? And the answer is yes, interactive 360° photography in the form of Virtual Tours. This is simply the next generation of photography that shows the world what you have got. The pictures need to be good quality, clean, clear, visually concise and compelling. You should be using them on your website, and your Facebook page as well. Once you have them you can use them on Google maps and on your business listing to help lift your profile and search ranking there. They even work well as sliders on Instagram details or those quirky tiny planet images - they are made from the same 360 images. The Real estate industry loves them, because 360° photography generates sales. This is why the Real Estate trade is one of the driving force's behind 360° Virtual Tour photography. The web has changed the way customers engage with businesses and I'm sure we all know people who will not visit a store, until they have looked at the website to decide if it's worth visiting. Good photography of what we sold and what we looked like on a good website; helped the business I was managing, bringing new clients to the store. If you do not have good photography, if your competitors website is out-performing yours, you can make great steps forward with Hi-Fidelity 360° photography. I can bring that new look you need with my Google, Street View Trusted 360° photographs of your business.
Michelin Star Restaurant Venice - photographed for a Hi-Fidelity 360° Virtual Tour by Kent Johnson Photography.
Quality photography works for all businesses whether you are selling somewhere to sleep, food to eat, even a day out with the kids, products or services; 360° photography takes your business to the next level on the web.
Call Kent to book your Virtual Tour Photoshoot today -
0433 796 863

Kent Johnson, Sydney, Australia. 0433 796 863
360 Stock Images - 360Cities

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Telling Stories in Pictures all over..
Luxury Hotel Room photographed for a Hi-Fidelity 360° Virtual Tour by Kent Johnson Photography.
Luxury Hotel Room in Venice Italy - photographed for a Hi-Fidelity 360° Virtual Tour

Uluru Northern Territory, Mutitjulu Waterhole Walk - photographed for a Hi-Fidelity 360° Virtual Tour by Kent Johnson Photography.
Mutitjulu Waterhole Walk - Uluru N.T.

Sunday, 29 December 2019

Be Generous - Go Large - Bring The Destination 360°

What could it possibly mean, "Be Generous" "Go Large" "Bring The Destination.." It's about thinking differently as to how we present who we are, where we are, and what to see - where we are.. and it's that last one that speaks to the idea of generosity as well. Hands up who has integrated local shots of their beautiful destination, outside the grounds of the resort or hotel, on their website? One or two of you? None! Why, why-would-you share a place, that's not your place? Why-wouldn't-you? OK if you have organised activities, day trips, you are going to be sharing those as part of a partnership. But what about some shots of what your guests can expect to see - even if they have been planning the trip for years, to this destination,  you can share your view of where you are too. Why? Because you care, because it's easy to do, it sets the tone of your resort, your hotel, it shows your generosity of spirit, and your place in this place.. wherever that place may be.
Hi-Fidelity 360° panorama of Burano, Venice Italy at Dawn. Photographed by Kent Johnson.
Yes I want to know what my hotel room looks like, the foyer and the front, so I can recognise it when I arrive. But why do I have to wade through a jumble of A.I. organised crowd-sourced pictures of where-you-are on Google maps; to try to get the feeling of where I am going to be. Why doesn't the hotel do this for me (without trying to onsell)? You can take the customer there yourself, on your website! You can do it, it's easy, it's just a few more, maybe only three or four custom pictures, of where you are.. So instead of being inside only - you can also be looking out, like several spots on the map "you are here" "we are here too". Now that's generous; like reception is when you ask advice on the best place to eat, to shop. This can happen on your website. So what would that look like, on your website? I'm glad you ask because I have prepared a sample, how it could look and work, like this; as visual bullet points of the resort, the area, why you are booking to stay with us - we care! Now just take a look at our place.. we know you are going to love it here.
Hi-Fidelity 360° panorama of a luxury resort hotel room, Mazzorbo. Travel photography by Kent Johnson.
Here's the demonstration below. We begin on the Venetian Island of Mazzorbo, at Venissa Wine Resort, we see a room, we see a Michelin Star restaurant, we see the vineyard. We also see Burano, as Mazzorbo and Burano are connected by a bridge, and San Marco too as they are connected by the Lagoon.. and in this series they are connected seamlessly by visual hotspots and you really get the picture of where you are, where you will be. It's easy when you have this special kind of high quality Hi-Fidelity 360° image to bring the visual feast to life. Small confession, the tour below leaves Venice, yes Venice our key Hotel and destination and includes a hotel in Como and also Milan; because it's my 360 hotels travel portfolio. Oh, and "Go Large', that works in more than one sense, 360° done well delivers a great feeling of the whole space, and the pictures are large - forget 4K these pictures below are double that and more; work very well on very large screens, and small ones like phones or VR headsets. Be generous, go large, bring the destination, give me a call, Hi-Fidelity 360° it works, and your clients will love it too.
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Hi-Fidelity 360° is like video only faster loading, can be animated, and lets the client view the images at their own pace and construct their own narrative in their own time. Would you like this for your business, please just call or email me.

Telling Stories in Pictures all over..
Kent Johnson, Sydney, Australia & The World.
0433 796 863

Tuesday, 17 December 2019

I Didn't Want To Become A 360° Photographer

This is the story of how I came to realise the potential of 360° photography - the pros and cons - from learning 'how it's done' to understanding how it can be done - much better.. Big call I know. I hope you are interested in joining me on this journey of discovery . If so please read on.

It started with travel. It was travelling and using Google maps. That was my start. Getting onto Google maps listings, checking reviews, seeing what's in the city, the town, the place I would be staying in. Looking at user uploaded photos and of course, also looking at the 360 panoramas, to decide if a park, an attraction, an historic site, was worth taking the time to visit, first I'd look it up. To see if a restaurant was good, and if the reviews seemed truthful and authentic enough to visit for a meal. What the restaurants presentation looked like.. I found Google Maps to be very helpful indeed.

Then sometime in 2017 I started to wonder if it might be worth uploading some of my photography to Google maps too? Would my pictures rise to the top, would anyone see them? Was placing pictures on Maps be a viable approach to marketing - by putting the pictures where the viewers were already looking - as opposed to trying to push them toward my own website? Well I decided to give it a go and I also became a 'Local Guide' too, it's all a part of the Google Maps program. I enjoyed the challenge of selecting one of my images of a well known (or not so well known) location; adding it to the Maps listing and seeing how it did, position, views, that sort of thing. That's the same Google Maps you have your Business Listing on by the way, it's all the same platform.

SPOILER ALERT - Since late 2017 and  just over 700 pictures on 'Maps' I have received over 4 million views, an online record for me.
Burano, Venice in Hi-Fidelity 360 panorama photography by Kent Johnson

One fateful day, I discovered there was a way, and only one way, that Google would provide a photographer with an Official Approved Photographer listing. It was, and still is the Street View Trusted Photographer (SVTP for short) a listing in the form of an outbound link - from them - yes an official Google link!!! This is not a Google search result, it is an official approved link - and I wanted it. Of course with over 20 years of professional photography experience, first I tried to wag the dog by the tail. I jumped into the Local Guides forums with my crazy great idea "Hey Google, we know not all photographers are equal, why can't I have a SVTP listing, my shots are worth it". And Google said "You need to upload 50 approved 360° Street View Photographs and then you can apply to be a SVTP". I made a bit more noise, then I just gave in, I didn't give up, I gave in.

I decided I would learn how to make full 360 Panoramas, complete Photospheres, 360° x 180°, 2:1 and Equirectangular photographs; those are all descriptions of the same thing by the way. Yes, I really wanted that listing and the link!

Though to be honest at this stage of the game, although I had found some 360° photographs interesting, and used street view to get a peek at a destination.. I thought the whole thing was really just some sort of gimmicky photography; because more often than not, the actual picture was just not that good, or was really over processed, like crazy look-at-me-Kimmie HDR! I wanted the link, and I did not plan on going past qualifying for that outbound link from Google. But like most things it was not that simple; as I slowly learnt the complex camera mechanical side & also the computational software aspects of making 360° photographs. And with these structural elements under control. I began to understand several things. That 360° photography was no gimmick, and made to the same exacting standards I already applied to all my professional photography; that it was a valid photographic form that could deliver images in a way classic photography struggled to do.

I started to see that these moving images could be a game changer in the rapidly evolving world of photography; which had already changed so much since I started out with film and prints made in the darkroom. The same creative challenges were here too; and had to be solved to create great and inspiring 360° photographs. I found the work of Master 360° photographers to study and help light my way. And I enjoyed engaging with those images from all over the world, spinning them around - taking the tours.. and viewing all there was to see! Photography is after all, no longer restricted to flat print publications, it can embrace all the functionality the internet and computers have to offer.

I came to understand there were other ways to present and view 360° photographs, that are completely independent of Google and the Maps platform. Approaches that are more flexible, customisable, personal ways to present 360 and engage an audience, online and off, with sophisticated design and superior user experience.
 Uluru Sails Resort in Hi-Fidelity 360 panorama photography by Kent Johnson

This was yet another multi layered learning experience, because a 360° photograph is not a static photograph, and as part of a tour interacts with other 360 images, incorporating sound and static images as pop ups, text, 360° photography; virtual tours, it's an evolving photographic platform within the web itself! And I am still learning about that, lets face it, the learning never stops.

So these further 'discoveries' were good news to me as I was already questioning whether the so-very-many picture data gathering approach method prefered by 'Maps'. Was really the right approach to tell the story of a place, or particularly positive in terms of user experience. What I wanted for myself and my clients was in line with the goals of classic commercial photography. That did not mean a lot pictures. That meant a hero shot that told a story, then another image, another distinctive view, a true story telling narrative created by they photographers vision. This is something I know well and that I knew from experience would deliver a greater impression and superior engagement from the viewer. Which is what we want, and that's a win for both the viewer and the client.

Three 360° portfolios - Sails Resort & Uluru - Sydney Ocean Pools - Hotels and Travel in Venice, all saying something a little differently, just as you would expect when they each have their own individual story to tell.

Click To Activate - Double Click for Full Screen - Recommended

Telling Stories in Pictures all over..

Kent Johnson, Sydney, Australia & The World.
0433 796 863

Thursday, 5 December 2019

Sails Ayers Rock Resort Yulara & Uluru In Hi-Fidelity 360°

Last month I was on assignment for White Caviar Life again, photographing at Uluru in the Northern Territory, Australia's 'Red Centre'. I took advantage of my time there add to my Hi-Fidelity 360 portfolio by making photographs of both the resort, it's iconic buildings and surrounds, and of course; the mighty rock, Uluru itself. The resort which was opened in 1984 was designed by Phillip Cox & Partners and just this year, 2019 received an Enduring Architecture achievement award. I was keen to do my best to capture the unique feeling of the architecture, this sailing ship of the desert. Although they are a distinctive feature the sails are not simply a design element. They are are real response to the need for shade in such a harsh and hot environment, one where shade trees are few and far between and difficult to grow. Done reading? Cut to the chase and view full Hi-Fidelity 360 HERE or scroll down to learn more.
Arkani Theatre Cultural Hub - Sails Resort Uluru Hi-Fidelity 360 Panorama Photography by Kent Johnson
Wintjiri Arts + Museum - Sails Resort Uluru Hi-Fidelity 360 Panorama Photography by Kent Johnson
Town Square Yulara - Sails Resort Uluru Hi-Fidelity 360 Panorama Photography by Kent Johnson
Poolside Chill Zone - Sails Resort Uluru Hi-Fidelity 360 Panorama Photography by Kent Johnson
In addition to the public spaces I also photographed two resort rooms. One from the original Sails development and a second at the Desert Gardens, a classic room with a view, of Uluru. Well with an outlook like that it was time to break out my HDR Hi-Fidelity 360 skills to bring the outside in - and the results I think speak for themselves. Great views, beautiful room shots with styling by Vivienne Shui from White Caviar life.
'Superior' Room with Desert View - Sails Resort Uluru Hi-Fidelity 360 Panorama Photography by Kent Johnson
Desert Gardens Uluru Room - Sails Resort Uluru Hi-Fidelity 360 Panorama Photography by Kent Johnson
And of course Uluru itself way out there in the red desert, with due care to respect and not to photograph the areas that are not meant to be seen by the local Anangu people. But should we talk about the flies!!! Well we were warned, and I have been outback before, though it had been a while. I did become quite proficient at shooing them away, hordes of them, though a couple, one or two frames from and early 360 have visitors I could have done without. By the end of that outing I had a pretty much fly proof approach to my technique and some strong images as well; the colours out there really are amazing and have not been enhanced at all.
Uluru East 'Mala' View  - Uluru National Park Hi-Fidelity 360 Panorama Photography by Kent Johnson
Kuniya Walk - Uluru National Park Hi-Fidelity 360 Panorama Photography by Kent Johnson
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Mutitjulu Waterhole Walk - Uluru National Park Hi-Fidelity 360 Panorama Photography by Kent Johnson
Back at Yulara, tucked up on the hill behind the Wintjiri Arts Museum and Cultural Centre I found a special little lookout under the Coms Tower you can see from everywhere.. it was not on the resort maps. It looks out over the Tjintu Solar Field with clear views of Kata Tjuta which made for another 360, both scenic and outback industrial in nature. It also served as a terrific location for one of our lifestyle fashion shoots too, though you will have to wait to see that. It's always worth digging around a little to see what's there.
Tjintu Solar Field Lookout - Sails Resort Uluru Hi-Fidelity 360 Panorama Photography by Kent Johnson
At time of writing, I have 14 Hi-Fidelity 360 images currently in this beautiful online portfolio, with more to come. View the full 360 here

If you are looking for a 360 Virtual Reality photographer who understands your business needs - please contact me, Kent Johnson to discuss your project. I am available for assignments world wide.

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

A Hi-Fidelity 360° Tour of Sydney for Travellers

One of the things I like to do when travelling is to jump onto google maps to check out landmarks and locations in advance of visiting them. While this is helpful I often wish there were better images, not just better stills, better 360° panoramas too! As I mentioned in my last post, equipment is no substitute for a photographers eye to really highlight a location and give it a sense of place. I am a little surprised that tourism agencies, museums and landmark locations have not embraced professional 360° photography more energetically; when I see great pictures it's a big part of my decision to visit and I know I am not alone in feeling and acting this way.
Sydney Opera house in Hi-Fidelity 360° panorama view by Kent Johnson
How can 360° photography work for travel and tourism? Well it can work in a number of ways, you could have your classic tour type series of shots that are a detailed walk through of a specific place. Or you could simply show highlights that are like a tasting menu of the sights on offer. This is the approach I've taken in a very broad manner to create my very own Tour of Sydney. Starting with the Sydney Opera House, then moving there are various locations in the adjacent Royal Botanic Gardens, Observatory Hill on the far side of Circular Quay, and some special Sydney Sandstone Landmarks, all linked and mapped so you can put each place on your travel bucket list if it's not already on there. Sydney for travellers in 26 pictures? Of course you can - just click the play button below to begin the tour.

If you are looking for a 360° Virtual Reality photographer who understands your business needs - please contact me, Kent Johnson to discuss your project. I am available for assignments world wide.

Monday, 21 October 2019

A Creative Vision For Computational Photography

Part 1 - Film Days..

There is a lot more to a photograph than the equipment used to make it. When I started out in photography I needed to learn how to make an in-focus, correctly exposed picture. I learned how to do that again and again, in a wide range of situations with a wide variety of equipment. I trained in film photography, 35mm, medium format cameras and large format 5 x 4 inch sheet film cameras - with movements. Film and paper, these consumables were expensive! Mistakes not only cost time but they could also cost a lot of money.

There are many many photographer and assistant horror stories revolving around film. Things that did didn't and should not have happened to and-or with the film. Wrong exposures set.. Film not loaded correctly. Exposed film being loaded twice.. bags of exposed film being lost! Or nearly lost.. whew!!! If you were a client about to put a serious amount of money into a marketing or advertising campaign you really wanted a photographer that knew their stuff. Knew their equipment and their team.

While a lot of the essential knowledge I learned at college and in the field as a photographer can now be done by the camera. Lets face it, hell, it can be done by your phone! Not surprisingly there's been some flow on effects for photographers as a result all of this innovation and 'disruption'. I call it the commodification of photography. When people believe it's the camera that 'takes' the picture, then a price based commodification of photography is inevitable. It's begun already with websites offering you an UBER driver who moonlights as a photographer.. Taxi driving has been commodified too because, well that's a different story, sort of.

Some professional photographers only have themselves to blame for this. If you qualify your fees, your 'price point' based on the cost of your cameras (etc) then the net result when the camera does 'the  job' itself - focus, expose the image correctly - the photographer using the marketing model 'I've got the latest equipment' inevitably becomes either redundant; or interchangeable for any other photographer with the latest equipment. This is great for people looking to save money, they don't really need a photographer any more, they simply need a digital camera operator - but we will call them a photographer to keep them (the operator) happy.

I hope this does not sound too cynical, I think it's a pretty obvious outcome if you link the quality of your photographic work, more or less exclusively to the equipment you use. And that's why I have never positioned myself as a photographer based on equipment I use.

Part 2 - Creativity and experience are not commodified yet

Yes there is a lot more to a photograph than the equipment used to make it. With dare I say, the emotional component being the most important. That part of the image is not in the camera settings - through they are working on it - portrait mode anyone, with very obvious oversimplification. Since taking on full 360VR panorama photography; many of the ideas I have held about photography have been brought into sharp focus - no pun intended. Seemingly simple things like, where to put the camera? This is something the computer does not really know. I say computer not because the camera has circuit boards in it. I say computer as there are 360 apps out there, mapping your environment and telling the camera operator where to place the camera next - so you get a complete map. Which is good news for cartographers; but not so important for the viewer, your customer, your client. I mean the person you are hoping becomes your client based on photography, based on the pictures that portray your business.

In fact - terrible statement isn't it, in fact.. since I started shooting 360, I have renewed admiration for all the non-equipment aspects of photography that I had really just taken for granted, for years and years. There is nothing like working on a picture that needs to look good all-the-way-around to give you an appreciation for the correct angle and lens choice made as a photographer, even with your non-360 work. It's called having a vision for photography, and people have been telling me I have it, since my earliest days with a camera.

Creating a picture, any picture, to do a specific job, make the people and clothes look wonderful, the room as luxurious as it truly is, the destination, worth seeing - the viewer perhaps just a little envious, stimulating their interest and motivating them to get in contact. Book - Visit - Buy. There's never been a camera that did that.. It's always been a photographer with vision.

If you are looking for a 360 Virtual Reality photographer who understands your business needs - please contact me, Kent Johnson to discuss your project. I am available for assignments world wide.