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Help: Before You Shoot Your Pictures...
Tip: the very first place you shoot should not be a special place!

Really. Instead, it should be somewhere that's nearby and/or very handy. The first time you're likely to want to redo some pictures or fine-tune your process, and you want that to be as easy as possible.

  • Step outside and shoot one or two spots right on your street.
  • A backyard, or a deck with a view.... all these are great for trying things out!
  • You can just shoot your living room! (There are some tips below regarding shooting indoors if you do this)

Note: Your places are not publicly viewable unless/until you publish them!

Picking a Location
When you're comfortable creating places, what should you shoot?

Shoot any place that's interesting or meaningful to you!

If it's interesting to you it will probably be interesting to someone else. It might be your business, or a nearby park, or a remote lake in the mountains. In fact, things that might feel mundane to you, like your immediate neighborhood, could easily be fascinating to someone in another part of the country or world. Especially if you have some interesting comments or tidbits to share!

Do not do anything illegal or dangerous. We are not encouraging anyone to put their own or anyone else's safety on the line, in fact quite the opposite - PLEASE DO NOT DO ANYTHING STUPID! Don't cry to us if you get bitten by a Rottweiler when you climbed over that fence with the "Do Not Tresspass" sign. Or if you fall off a cliff trying to get that perfect shot....

Spot Placement
When choosing spots for your place, try to align them along imaginary (or real) N/S/E/W or NE/SE/NW/SW lines, and if you can, shoot a spot at the position(s) where the lines intersect. (See the Place Design page for more info) In an open area, this will work much better than finding the "perfect photo" spots or staying on a winding trail, then trying to figure out how to link them later.

Without experience, this may not seem obvious or intuitive when you're out shooting photos, but trust us on this. Not only will it make your job easier putting the place together, but it will be easier and more fluid for your users to navigate. The overall effect is almost always better than having great individual photos or spots. You can often add those "pretty pictures" as zooms.

Shooting Pictures
Various tips:
  • Be sure to shoot landscape (wide) not portrait (tall). Portrait photos will not work properly.
  • If your camera supports different aspect-ratios (wide screen vs. full screen), choose 4x3 (full screen) instead of 16x9 or any wide screen format. Wide screen generally crops the image on top and bottom to achieve its dimensions, and it's better to preserve that data for this type of application. Don't fret if you've already shot something in wide screen; just upload and we will automatically trim the left and right edges to a 4x3 aspect ratio.

    In the unlikely event your camera has an aspect ratio of less than 4x3 in landscape mode (i.e. 3.5x3) you will need to crop your images before uploading. We've only heard of one case like this, but just in case...
  • Use landmarks, like the street or buildings to keep your directional bearings. Sometimes it's actually helpful to position your feet at 90 degree angles to each other!
  • Try to make the first picture for each spot face a consistent direction (i.e. North), then rotate clockwise (*to*the*right*) 45 degrees for each subsequent photo. Sometimes it can even be helpful to make a little + mark on the ground where you stand, either with chalk on pavement, or by dragging your feet in the dirt or sand.
  • Take a "blank shot" between spots, as a separator. This is really easy to do and very very helpful when sorting. The easiest way to do this if you're outside is to just aim at the sky (or ground) and shoot! This will almost never use your flash (saving batteries), and sky typically has very low detail so it will use very little memory.
  • When you have 2 or more spots in a line, try to keep a common point in the distance at the very center of photos in that line. This helps keep your audience immersed when they walk forward or backward along that path.
  • Take all 8 directional shots first, waiting to shoot any interesting "zoom" photos for that spot until after the first 8.
  • When you shoot indoors, or in any tighter quarters, a very helpful technique is to step back a bit from your center of rotation on each shot. In other words, find the center of the room and make sure it is a couple (or few) feet in front of you for each picture. If you have a very wide angle lens this may not be necessary, but it's a good trick to know, and once you get a feel for the relationship between the center of rotation and where you stand for each picture, you can take advantage of this technique in many situations.
A few notes about people in your pictures:
  • In general you'll want to minimize people in the foreground of your photos. People in the background are fine, and often help give a place a warmer or more realistic ambiance. One way to think about it is that generally one person should not be the focus of any photo. If you are in the middle of a mall or a fair, this may be difficult. Just use good judgement.
  • If you are in a populated area and someone is standing right where you want to shoot, go ahead and move to the next angle. By the time you get all the way around the person may have moved. You will have to re-order that particular spot when you sort the photos, but that's fairly easy if you remember your 'blank' picture between spots. If you just wait for people to move, they often move right into the next view you're trying to shoot!
  • If you've shot all the other directions, and you're still waiting for someone to move, another trick is to just hold up your camera in the general direction you're going to shoot, then raise and lower it a couple times, looking off in the distance behind them. That tends to get people's attention, and many people will move out of politeness. Yes, these tips come from firsthand experience!
  • Don't knowingly take a photo with a recognizable celebrity or model. The details of what constitutes "fair use" are complicated, but avoid the easy stuff. If you accidentally got a close up of someone's face you can always blur it out before uploading.
Prepare for Upload
If you want to make any edits to your images you'll need to do it prior to uploading.
  • If you took any 'zoomed' pictures, you may want to do some cropping. Keep a 4x3 aspect ratio!
  • If you're detail-oriented and want to lighten some shadows or darken some highlights, or if you have a picture that's not quite horizontal and you'd like to straighten it (iPhoto is great at this), make those types of changes now before uploading.
  • In most cases, it is not helpful to rename your images prior to uploading, and may actually make your task more difficult. Most digital cameras append a sequence number to the image file names that increments automatically as you take pictures. We display unsorted images alphabetically, so leaving them with their 'natural' file names means they will display in the order you took them.
  • It's very helpful to reduce images to roughly 800-1000 pixels in width before zipping them for upload. You can upload whatever size you want, but images will get reduced anyway and this will save you upload time, bandwidth and time waiting for our server to process the files when they arrive.

    If you use an image management program such as iPhoto, it's easy to make these edits in that package and export the images as 1000x750 or 800x600 resolution. Then zip up those resized images for upload.
    Note for Mac users: If you don't use iPhoto, we have an AppleScript that makes resizing easy and convenient. Click here to download it, and open the .zip file to get a folder called: MacResizeImagesScript. Inside ScaleWithPromptAndProgress.v2. Put that file into your Scripts folder (inside 'Library' in your home folder) and then drag the application icon into the area just below the title bar on any Finder window, pausing for a moment so it will 'attach'. Now, any time you want to resize a set of images, just select them all and drag them onto that icon. You will be asked for a folder to put the new images, and your originals will not be modified.
  • Bundle up all the reduced images into a .zip file (or files) to send. There is a hard limit of 50 megabytes per .zip file, but in practice, 50-100 images per .zip file at 800xN resolution works well. If your image files are higher resolution you may need to put less images in each .zip file.
    Mac users: To zip up your image files, select the images and right-click or ctrl-click to get a pop-up menu. Select "Compress [N] Items" (10.5 and 10.6) or "Create Archive of [N] Items" (10.4), either of which creates a file called in the same folder with the images.
    Windows XP/Vista users: Select all the images you wish to zip up, then right-click on one of them to bring up a menu. Move your mouse to the "Send To" menu item. Another menu will appear where you should select "Compressed (zipped) Folder". A special "zipped" folder will be created inside the same folder as your images.

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