Tutorial: How to Create Interactive 360 Degree Panoramas for Facebook

We’ve all seen those amazing interactive images on Facebook by now: beautiful 360 degree panoramas shot from a drone. Whether of a bustling city or a quiet country landscape, they all make us feel like we’re there. After doing some some research, I have found little help on this subject. In this article, I’ll be doing a step-by-step tutorial to show you how to accomplish this. There’s the paid/easy way, or the free/more work way. I’ll be going over both methods. Click the embedded post below to see what your final result will look like:

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1. Obtain a Drone

dji phantom 4 drone aerial 360 pano

You’re going to need something to take those aerial photos. I suggest a Phantom quadcopter. Here are the best options on Amazon:

Also, a set of ND filters will get you better quality photos. It will prevent the images from being under or over exposed.

2. Download a Panorama Taking App

Download an app capable of automating the panorama taking process (however, it’s not difficult to take them manually). Litchi is a great app that works on almost all Phantom, Inspire, and Matrice drones. DronePan is another option, but is not compatible with as many quadcopters.

Quick Tip: New drone pilot? Or maybe want to master flying your quadcopter? Check out this online course that includes 77 lectures worth of advice and tutorials (that covers just about everything: planning, flying, filming, editing, laws, etc.): Stunning Aerial Videography and Photography Using Drones

3. Take Pictures

  • Open Litchi and connect to your drone. Fly to the height desired. I usually go around 300-400 feet.
  • Click the menu to the top left and select Pano.
  • Click the Pano Settings button in the bottom left of the screen.

Litchi screenshot panorama

  • Set Type to Spherical 3 Rows.
  • Set Photos per Row at 8 or greater.
  • Press Start and give it a few minutes to capture all the photos.
  • Import all of these images from your SD card to your computer.

You now have 2 ways to stitch your panorama, and give it the correct EXIF data (information that includes GPS coordinates, time, device, panorama info, etc.) to become an interactive panorama on Facebook: The Paid/Easy Way or The Free/More Work Way



Paid/Easy Way with Autopano

autopano tutorial 360 panorama

4. Purchase and Download Autopano

Autopano Pro or Autopano Giga can be purchased here from Kolor. Either one will do the job. However, Autopano Pro is about $110, while Autopano Giga is about $220.

5. Let the Program Do the Work

  • Import photos by clicking Select Images. Select each photo or click the first one, hold shift, and then click the last one to select them all. Click Open.

import photos

  • (Optional) If you want to add a sky in Photoshop after stitching make sure to change the settings to produce a full 360 panorama. Otherwise, skip this step (It will still produce a working interactive panorama, but it will prevent the interactive view from going above a certain point where the sky stops. This is okay for most). Go to the menu Edit>Settings>Panorma. Change Default Crop from Clamp to Panorama Content to Maximum Projection Range
  • Click the Detect/stop all button at the bottom. It is a green button that looks like a play button. It will run for a minute or two, and then generate a stitched, flat panorama.
  • Click the Render button (looks like a settings button). You can mess around with the export file, quality, and other things. I just leave mine at the default settings. Set your output folder and file name, and then hit Render.

rendering

  • After a few minutes, you will receive your final panorama.

5. (Optional) Add a Sky

You can take this panorama into Photoshop and add a sky in. I will have a tutorial how to do this in my next article so be sure to subscribe to my newsletter to get an update when it comes out (on the side bar or at the bottom of the page). It’s not hard to do a very plain, one color sky. However, adding in a sky with clouds and different colors can be tricky since you are working with a distorted image. Photoshop will keep the EXIF data, but many other photo editing programs will clear this data out. (You can purchase Photoshop by clicking the banner below).

6. Upload to Facebook

Autopano automatically attaches the correct EXIF data that Facebook is able to recognize as a panorama. When you upload the photo (upload like you would any other normal photo), it will instantly become a fully interactive photo on Facebook. You’re Done!

A symbol showing the way you're facing should be visible

A symbol showing the way you’re facing should be visible

 

Free/More Work Way with Microsoft ICE and ExifTool

4. Download Microsoft ICE (Image Composite Editor)

You can get this free program here. It’s a great program, but not made for uploading interactive panoramas to Facebook. As you will see several steps later, you will need to add your own EXIF data and adjust the image size. AKA the “More Work Way”.

5. Stitch the Photos

  • Open up Microsoft ICE and click New Panorama From Images at the top. Select each image or select first image, hold shift, and then select last image to select all of them. Click Open. The program will then open up with all of your images.
  • Click Stitch at the top. After stitching, you will need to adjust your image so the horizon is completely flat and matches up with the middle line, as shown below. You can use your cursor to do this.
Horizon should be flat. You can adjust with the mouse.

Horizon should be flat. You can adjust with the mouse.

  • Hit Crop at the top. Leave all these settings at default (you can hit Autocomplete Image if you have missing, blank spots).
  • Hit Export at the top. Make sure you are exporting as JPEG with whatever quality you desire. Click Export to disk.  

export image tutorial microsoft ice panorama 360 facebook

  • After a few seconds, you’ll have your stitched panorama. Now for the tricky part…

5. Adjust Image (Canvas) Size

  • Open up your favorite image editing program.  Just about anyone will be able to do this. Here’s a list of free ones.
  • Adjust the size so the height is exactly half the size of the width. In Microsoft ICE, I believe the default panorama width is always 17408 pixels, meaning the height should be adjusted to 8704 (if for some reason it’s a different value just make sure you divide the width by 2 to get the height). Make sure you are adjusting the height of the image without actually stretching out your panorama. In other words, you’re just adjusting the size of the ‘Canvas’.
    • To do this in Photoshop click on Image>Canvas Size.
  • Make sure to move your panorama to the bottom of the canvas.
photoshop facebook panorama tutorial 360

Make sure panorama is at the bottom of the canvas

  • (Optional) Add a sky. You can easily brush in a solid color sky, or add a full blown sky with clouds. I will be writing a tutorial on this soon so be sure to subscribe (at the side or bottom of the page) to get notified when this new article comes out.
  • Save photo as jpeg.

6. Download and Open ExifTool

  • Download ExifToolGUI v5.16 from here and extract the archive.
  • Download ExifTool from here and extract. Rename the extracted file to exiftool.exe and paste it to C:\Windows\
  • Download the template (‘GPano2.ini‘) which will allow you to edit the Make and Model fields of the EXIF data in your image within ExifTool.
  • Open up ExifToolGUI from the folder you had extracted it to.

exiftool facebook panorama tutorial 360

  • Go to the folder containing your panorama in the ‘Browse’ section on the left, and select the photo in the file list. Go to the menu and navigate to Program>Workspace definition file>Load and load ‘GPano2.ini’ (wherever you saved it from the above step). This file will allow you to change Make and Model in the Workspace properties under the Metadata section on the right of the interface.

exiftool panorama 360 aerial facebook photo

  • Click on Workspace in the Metadata section to the right. Change the values to match these (press enter after typing in each value in the text box):
    Make sure to hit save after changing all values.

    Make sure to hit “Save” after changing all values.

  • If for some reason your height and width are different, you can input those values as long as they follow the same pattern as above.
  • Make sure to hit Save at the bottom when done!

7. Upload to Facebook

You’re panorama and Exif data are all set to go! When you upload the photo (upload like you would any other normal photo), it will instantly become a fully interactive photo on Facebook. You’re Done!

8. Enjoy Your Interactive 360 Aerial Panorama

It’s a lot of work, but well worth it. You now have a working interactive panorama shot from you drone on Facebook. Hundreds of likes and shares are coming your way, trust me.

Did this article help you out? Please share on social media and help others out too. Have some questions? Ask me in the comments below. Don’t forget to subscribe to get updates on more articles like this!

  • Aaron Dunlap

    Thanks for the tutorial! Was curious though besides Autopano I’ve heard PTGui is another good stitching program. Will this work too?

    • That’s good question. PTGui a great software to stitch your photos. It also allows more control over your panorama that Autopano does. However, I’m not sure if it saves the correct EXIF data needed for Facebook to recognize it as a 360 degree panorama. Maybe somebody else who has used PTGui can anwer this?

  • Dito Tatishvili

    hi there … have u made tutorial about how to fill the sky in photoshop ? if so can u link it ? thanks

    • Currently working on an article. I’ll let you know as soon as I post it.

  • Bryan

    Hello, i am getting Your photo couldn’t be uploaded due to restrictions on image dimensions. Photos should be less than 30,000 pixels in any dimension, and less than 41,000,000 pixels in total size. error. any ideas?

  • pelermon

    Step 6 is stumping me.
    “Download the template (‘GPano2.ini‘)” Windows warns me unsafe.
    Did it anyway and crashed had to restore.

    • That’s odd, I have not seen that before. When did it crash? When you loaded it into the program?

      • pelermon

        When I Renamed the extracted file to exiftool.exe and paste it to C:Windows .

        • pelermon

          I may have done something wrong, I might not have renamed it before I put it in C I am going to try again.

          • Ok please let me know how it goes.

          • pelermon

            One thing, what is the purpose of the ExifTool ? I can upload my final 360 after PhotoShop (and Ricoh mod) to facebook and I have fully interactive photo on Facebook. I can also check it here – http://panoramaviewer.1bestlink.net/

          • Usually the photo will not have the correct EXIF data, and Facebook will not recognize it as a 360 panorama. EXIFTool gives it the data. That’s great if you are able to do it without EXIFTool. Some programs will do it for you, but likely cost some money.

          • pelermon

            I just used ICE and PhotoShop. If I have problems with Facebook not recognizing a 360/180, I will mess with EXIFTool.
            Thank You for the explanation.

  • Dave Behr

    I produced a Pano with Autopano Pro (41 images) and the Pano came out OK. Then loaded it into Pano tour and checked it – OK. Then uploaded the Pano to Exif Pilot and changed the Make and Model (RICOH and RICOH Theta S), Saved it and uploaded to Facebook. It uploaded but no 360 feature , Althugh FB says “say something about the 360”. What’s wrong ?.Thx.

    • Bruno De la Garza

      as long as the image is 2:1 ratio max 6000x3000px and the settings you commented on ricoh and ricoh theta s facebook will show it 360

  • urbie delgado

    It didn’t work for me. I went with the Paid/Easy Way using a Phantom 4 controlled by the current Litchi app, AutoPano Pro 4.2 and Facebook in Chrome/Safari on a MacBookPro under OS X 10.12.1.

    I used the same source images [shot with my Phantom 4 and Litchi] and PTGui Pro Trial and it worked like a champ.

    Anything I should have done in AutoPano Pro 4.2?

    • Where did you run into problems with AutoPano?

      • urbie delgado

        The part where I went to upload the image into FB. I didn’t get a globe icon. The image wasn’t interactive.

        • Are you able to view the EXIF data? If so, please share what the data is. It’s tough for me to say what the problem is without seeing it.