How to improve the quality of your 360 photos? Guide part 3
June 7, 2021
In the previous part of the guide on How to take better 360 photos, we learned how we can use the DFE plugin to enhance the quality of our photos. However, we stopped at a point where our supposedly great photos are not ready to be used. Today you will learn how to make these photos look truly appealing. We will also transform them (by stitching them together) into a version that works perfectly fine with a virtual tour software. We have prepared a step-by-step guide for you – you can see the screens from each stage 🙂
Editing spherical photos in Adobe Lightroom
After taking the photos with the DFE plugin and downloading them to the computer, we got the photos in DNG format. This is not very useful for us at the moment, so we need Adobe Lightroom to turn them into visually attractive professional images that can be used in a virtual tour.
Adobe Lightroom is an indispensable tool for editing and greatly enhancing spherical photos. It allows us to adjust the key parameters for the photo and, by using the plugin, will allow us to stitch the photos quickly and intuitively. Thanks to Adobe Lightroom, we can also get rid of chromatic aberration with just a few clicks. It is a paid tool, but at the moment we have not found any free alternative offering equal quality (If we come across one, we will let you know! If you have already encountered it, let us know in the comments 😉). If you plan to take high-quality 360 photos frequently, we encourage you to familiarize yourself with this tool (you can try it for free). Now let’s move on to what we can get out of it.
Editing spherical photos in Adobe Lightroom step by step 👣
- We upload photos to Adobe Lightroom.
2. Go to the Develop tab for processing. As you can see the photos are not usable yet – they are excessively dark. Therefore, we have to brighten them, then we can add contrast and choose other settings. In fact, in many cases it is enough to just brighten the photos – this is the indispensable minimum, if we do not have time, we can stop here. However, below we describe a wider range of tools and possible editing options. This is not all that can be done to get the full potential out of raw photos, but it is a very big (huge!) step forward that will make an enormous difference.
At the moment we have very high quality hemispherical images, but they are not yet usable – they are too dark and you cannot see much of them.
3. First, give an automatic Lightroom correction a try by clicking on the Auto button. We can also choose all settings manually – the effect will then be more suited to our preferences, but it will take a little more time. As you can see after pressing the auto button – the photo is a bit brighter but this is still not the effect we want.
4. That is why, now we manually add Exposure – the parameter mainly responsible for the brightness. For photos taken with Theta Z1 and V, it is safe to set Highlights to the lowest value and Shadows to the highest value in advance. If we want our virtual tour to be more vivid and colorful – we can use the Contrast slider – but be careful not to overdo it, because the effect will be exaggerated, and it is better to aim for elegance.
We can also increase the Clarity parameter – the photos will be sharper then, but we do not recommend using a value higher than 70, because the effect, while it may seem attractive in the Lightroom preview, will appear unnatural in the presentation. We can also adjust the Saturation slider if we need more vivid colours.
How to remove chromatic aberration from 360 photos?
360 cameras tend to produce purple and blue shadows at the edges of contrasting areas. It is the result of the laws of physics. We are talking about the phenomenon of the so-called chromatic aberration. You can easily get rid of it for an even more professional effect.
Removing aberration is simple – in the Lens Correction tab, set Amount to 10 and move the left slider (Purple Hue) to the left to increase the range until the aberration disappears.
When we process one photo in this way, we can select the first and holding down the shift key the last photo and select the Sync button. Lightroom will apply the changes from the first photo to all photos. This is the fastest method, but we recommend that you browse through the rest of the photos. In my case, removing the aberration caused the blue couch to become discoloured, which required correction (reverse process to removing the aberration). In addition, not every photo was lit in the same way, so some clearly would call for additional adjustments of the Exposure settings.
At this point we have very high-quality photos that are still in Lightroom in a raw format and in the form of two hemispheres. To be useful for us, we need to make them rectangular.
How to stitch photo spheres? Ricoh Theta Stitcher
To stitch the photos together (to make the 2:1 rectangle from the two hemispheres) we need Ricoh’s Lightroom plugin (RICOH THETA Stitcher.exe). You have to install it once, then it will be available every time you need to stitch a photo.
You can download the plugin here:
We download the file, install the content and then in Lightroom we have to indicate the location of the executable file. In the case of Windows it is: C: \ Program Files \ RICOH THETA Stitcher \ RICOH THETA Stitcher.exe
Stitching 360 photos together with Ricoh Theta Stitcher
To make a rectangle photo in such a format that can be handled by a vritual tour software, right-click on the preview and select the RICOH THETA STITCHER plugin from Edit In. The “stitcher” will open. We can also select multiple photos at once. Opening the plugin takes a while so we may have to wait a while without clicking anything else.
We choose the following settings:
👉 and then we click Edit
Click OK. If we have loaded more than one photo, we will find Batch Processing opyion under the OK button – we want to use it to stitch all photos at once. It’s almost over. At this point, we should have rectangular photos in Lightroom, which just need to be exported to jpg format. and will be ready for use.
Exporting stitched 360 photos to jpg. format
To do this, choose the rectangular versions of the photos and right-click export.
After choosing where to save the photos – click the Export button.
Your photos are now really eye-catching! You can use them in the virtual tour editor and be proud of the effect obtained. But…there are a few more ways to improve the quality of your 360 photos. Stay tuned, because we will soon talk about removing noise and a tripod from your photo spheres 😊.