Google Business Views to become Street View | Trusted

thumb-trusted-photographerThe long anticipated merger between the original Google Business Views program and Street View is nearly upon us…

Come September 3rd 2015, Google Business Views will officially become a part of the Google’s Street View program, and will be rebranded as “Street View | Trusted“.

The new Trusted program is expect to simplify the process of taking and publishing Panoramas and Virtual Tours to Google Maps.  It also makes the publication process accessible to everyone – although qualified and experienced photographers can still attain a “Certified” status.

 

How to become a Trusted Photographer?

Currently there are fewer than 30 Google approved Trusted Photographers in Australia – mostly in Capital Cities as outlined below :

  • Sydney (3)
  • Melbourne (5)
  • Perth (4)
  • Brisbane (2)
  • Adelaide (4)
  • Other NSW (3)
  • Other VIC (1)
  • Other QLD (1)

It is pretty straightforward to apply to become a trusted photographer  (the application process is open to anyone – including amateur and professional photographers), but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of information available about exactly what the process is largely apparently because of an NDA that you will need to sign early on in the process).

This post attempts to collate information about what is involved in the process of getting approval as a Trusted Photographer.

Why become a Business Photos Trusted Photographer?

As a Business Photos Trusted Photographer you build relationships with local businesses and work with them to photograph their space.Google will provide you with the training and support needed to capture Street View imagery which will be published on Google Maps. As a qualified Business Photos Trusted Photographer you are able to run your own independent business (with free training and support from Google).

Apply to be a Google Trusted Photographer

The initial step to apply to be a trusted photographer is quite straight forward.  It is open to experienced  photographers – not necessarily just those already involved in a professional photography business.  There are a few suggested criteria though :

According to Google, you will need :

  • A passion to run a successful high volume photography business.
  • A commitment of 30+ hours a week to the Business Photos Trusted Photographer program
  • Proven tele-sales or door-to-door sales skills
  • Your own photography equipment (specific camera bodies and lenses do apply)
  • a Business license
  • a Computer with high-speed internet
  • a Gmail account
  • Your own photography business website

Once your application is processed, and Google determines that there really is a need for extra Trusted Photographers in your area, initial contact will probably be from a Google Rep via phone and  you may be contacted by Google for a “trial run”.    At this stage you will be sent a Non Disclosure Agreement and some training material,

What do I need to Learn

Google runs a free training program designed to teach experienced (not necessarily professional) photographers through the process required to take and submit photos for Google to “stich” into virtual walkthroughs.

You will need to study Google’s training material, and complete a test to prove that you have a clear understanding of the concepts it covers. If you successfully complete  this part of the process, you will be required to shoot some samples to submit to Google to ensure that you are able to meet required standards for quality-control purposes.

What Equipment Do I Need?

There are specific Camera Body and Lens combinations that are considered as acceptable equipment (these are not necessarily top end gear, you may actually need to down-grade), so if you you don’t already have the right equipment you may need to invest in some.  If you need to buy it all – the investment is likely to cost between $2,000 and $4,000, but most experienced photographers should have some (or all) of the gear already… and in the scale of things the cost is likely to be quickly recovered within a few sales.

The gear requirements does change from time to time, but apparently includes (but is not necessarily limited to) the following, Note this list is vague because publication of the actual list is restricted by the NDA, but it should give you some idea of what to ex[ect.

  • Canon EOS 7D Body
  • Sigma 8mm circular fish-eye lens
  • Canon 8-15mm f/4 L fish-eye lens
  • An Android phone (various models suitable)
  • A sturdy tripod and panoramic tripod head (e.g. Nodal Ninja R10) is also required

 Techy Photo Stuff

It is understood that Google requires photographs to be ‘bracketed’ to give 3 exposures (for HDR processing) at 90 degree rotations -i.e.  a total of 12 images for each location. Photos are to be taken with the panorama head set at 7.5 degrees above the horizon to give a good overlap at the top of the images, while leaving a small area omitted at the bottom of each shot where the head/tripod would appear.

Once the photos are taken there may need to be some post processing before they are provided to Google, along with some info about the layout of the business and exactly where each photo series was taken (this is necessary to create the virtual tour).  Google then “stitches” together the panorama for each spot, and creates the virtual tour map – they will also blur any faces (for privacy).

 See also :

Google’s Official Become a Trusted Photographer today  page

If you know any more about the recommended equipment or the process associated with becoming a trusted photographer… please leave a comment 🙂

 

What is a Panoramic Tripod Head?

A panoramic tripod head is a piece of photographic equipment, mounted to a tripod, which allows photographers to accurately shoot a sequence of images that can be used to produce a panorama, with minimum parallax problems.

A panoramic tripod head keeps the point of view of the camera stationary by placing it in the axis of rotation.

The purpose of a panoramic head is to allow you to accurately position your camera so that when you turn it you are turning it about the no-parallax-point of your lens. By rotating the camera around this point, you avoid parallax.

A panoramic head allows you to get the best possible pictures to produce the best possible panoramas and makes shooting the pictures much easier, and in a more systematic and, making it easier to stitch the pictures together afterwards.

To take a panorama, the camera is rotated at fixed angular increments, taking an image at each point. These images can then be assembled (stitched) using stitching software, which allows the images to be aligned and combined into a single seamless panoramic image.

How to avoid parallax

If everything in a scene is approximately the same distance from the lens, or very far away, the parallax effect will be eliminated or at least minimized. This is why hand-held panoramas from a mountain top tend to work quite well – everything is far away from the camera, and because the distances are very large compared to the tiny distance between the nodal point and the point of rotation, parallax is negligible.

Wide angle lenses can help reduce parallax effects because a wide angle lens accentuates perspective, making everything seem further away. However wide angle lenses also have a larger field of view so there is a greater chance that things in the foreground (including the ground itself) are captured and then cause problems. Providing there are no foreground objects juxtaposed against far away objects parallax will be minimized and you may be able to successfully post-edit any glitches in the stitch to achieve a good image. Conversely long focal length lenses compress perspective, exaggerating parallax effects.

The only way to eliminate parallax entirely is to use a panoramic head, which allows you to accurately position your camera so that when you take the pictures you are rotating the camera around the nodal point of the lens.