February 29, 2016 seeinsidegroup

Choosing Your Google Street View Photographer

I often get asked what sets See Inside Group apart from some of the other Google Trusted Photographers and agencies so I’ve put together a list of frequently answered questions and what to look after when you are choosing your Google accredited photographic partner.

StreetView Trusted Photographer See Inside GroupAs with any business relationship you should do you research, you’re enlisting an individual or company to capture imagery which is a reflection of your brand and associating those photographs and the Street View Trusted user experience to your most visible digital asset, your Google My Business Local Listing.

At the moment I’m currently working with a hotel brand that opted to use the cheapest photographer that tendered for the job, this brand is now having to have a number of their properties re-shot because their virtual tours didn’t live up to expectations so the first thing I should mention is that your choice of Google Photographer should not be solely based upon cost.


The Price

In 2012 under the old Google Business Photos program, Trusted Innerspace Photographers (who are actually outside contractors and not Google employees) were to work for what was deemed as a “fair price” and they had a recommended pricing structure which myself and a number of photographers around the UK (with whom I still work with when delivering a roll out for national brands) work slightly under, in fact I still use this pricing structure today with my clients all around the world. Of course as the program became bigger and morphed into Google Business View there was an influx of individuals who thought this was an easy sell as well as companies who wanted to add it to their services and employ college students and those with no photographic experience to shoot large volumes of premises as cheaply as possible, this lead to a flood of poor quality panoramic photos to hit Google Maps even though there was a 20% quality control check, in my opinion this set the program back somewhat it also meant that some of these agencies had trouble working with big name clients and to this day stick to cold calling on UK high streets.

Bad Photography on Google MapsThere is no excuse for the photographer and camera to be within the reflection of this mirror, camera can be placed on self time allowing the gentleman to remove himself from the frame, better yet the whole camera unit could have been moved slightly to the left so there would be no reflection of any equipment yet the entire environment could still be showcased.

I’m in no way saying that you shouldn’t go for the most expensive quote as this doesn’t guarantee quality, what I’m merely pointing out is that as businesses are usually charged prior to a photo shoot taking place you may have to pay double in order to get the quality of imagery you would have originally expected.

The Equipment

You may have read that there has a number of 360 cameras to hit the market lately as the world gears up for virtual reality and immersive imagery to go mainstream, I cannot stress there is nothing out there that even comes close to DSLR quality and an experienced operator, again if it seems too good to be true it probably is.

One such camera boasts inbuilt HDR (High Dynamic Range – the merger of multiple exposure images, standard with all See Inside Group photography) as well as inbuilt stitching, allowing for immediate upload to Google Maps. When a product boasts about speed, quality tends to suffer as a result and this is certainly the case, the problem with automatic stitching is that you have no control to manually overwrite, the hardware tries to match multiple points from the individual photographs in order to create a bubble, the problem here is that this can prove difficult on white walls and complex interiors, the final output then resembles a scene from the movie, inception.

Another issue of this particular camera is that because it doesn’t offer 180 degree field of view in the vertical access that is cannot see underneath itself so as you can see from the embedded version below, you’re left with a huge black void, again this is detrimental to the imagery.

The Experience

The whole point of the experience is to immerse the user and allow them to feel as close to being in the premises without actually being there, this means that they shouldn’t be able to walk through objects, walls or floor levels. If your tour has navigation that jumps through walls because the constellation has not been correctly posed then it will eventually be removed due to it’s non compliance with Google’s quality procedure.

Please ensure you can navigate your chosen photographers tours properly as this is how your potential customers will view, a bad online experience can result in a bad offline experience and increase bounce rate on your website.

With our recent shoot for Kempinski not only is there a noticeable effort in image quality but you can easily navigate the property via the floor levels on the right and the ability navigate same level photospheres through simplistic navigation as we globally position each image in real world co-ordinate, resulting in a much smoother and more pleasant, interactive experience.

The Photographer

I am not a salesperson, I never have been and I never will be. I do not publish huge numbers of photo shoots each month as I spend my time providing a quality service both before and long after your interactive imagery is published to Google Maps. I spend time building a relationship with my clients to instil trust and I strongly suggest you do the same, get to know who you’re working with as your business deal could be ongoing for quite a while, should your tour disappear following a post publication quality control check, how easily can they be found to fix it or will they not be held accountable, never to be seen again?

I have become very good friends with a number of my clients due to our efforts with Street View Trusted and the extra lengths we go to even on unrelated matters, some of which I continue to stay in touch with via social media it’s resulted in additional work once they have moved to a new business.

See Inside Group Photography is Better

The above example is from a recent reshoot I was asked to attend after the original photographer published poor quality imagery featuring hotel guests, this is a big no in my book, by waiting a few minutes the area will clear and free for photographing, this is lazy. The business had no contractual comeback as a result they’ve had to reinvest less than 12 months after the original shoot.

There are a few myths I feel I need to dispel from speaking to business owners and marketing managers:

1 – If someone tells you they are the only one qualified to photograph their property for Google, they are lying to your face and I would stay clear, there is an approved list of trusted photographers. This list however now shows people who have photographed 10 businesses within 150 day period, it does not mean they have been through the original training and passed Google’s original test and qualified to work with businesses on behalf of the Search Engine.

2 – A photographer or agency salesperson does not need access to your Google My Business Listing, please do not let them verify on your behalf unless you have a water tight agreement that where you cannot be held to ransom, as I’ve mentioned this is your most visible digital asset.

3 – There is no ongoing fee, a photographer can charge to update imagery if you would like them to come back, however there is no associated costs in hosting the imagery, Street View Trusted is a one time fee, this should include the photo shoot and publication to Google’s ecosystem, point of interest or still shots are now an optional extra.

4 – Recognisable people no longer need to be blurred on Street View, as we’re now effectively a member of the public we have no responsibility to blur faces, as a rule of thumb I try not to have anyone other that staff members in our photos, even that is at the discretion of the business and the employee in question. I do however blur all license plates, this is discrete and does not impact upon image quality.

In conclusion, research is your ally, before choosing your Street View Photographer please do your homework, take a look at their previous work and ensure it’s to the standard representative of your brand, just as if you were investing in a regular photo shoot or booking a wedding photographer.

See Inside Group is on hand to advise, while we photograph all over the world we can also recommend local shooters, please feel free to drop us a line and we’ll be happy to discuss your needs.

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