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Interview with 360 VR Photographer Herman Desmet

Interview with 360 VR Photographer Herman Desmet

Recently we had the chance to have a talk with Herman Desmet for an interview where he shared his experiences about how he became a 360 VR photographer, what setup does he use or his tips to today's photographers..

Q. What does photography mean to you and what was the reason that you became a photographer?

A: Photography is not only my daytime job (I work as an interior/architecture and 360VR photographer), but also my passion. Spending time researching and and experimenting with technical photography is really what gets me going. I can spend hours creating a time lapse in a remote location, just for fun, until it's perfect. I also like to amaze people with 360° panoramic photos because you don't see that every day. That's why I started with photography at around 1995. I was a fanatic climber and adventurer then, and I took photos on mountains and remote climbing locations. When they got published in climbing magazines, it gave me a kick. So I decided to study photography more. When digital photography appeared, I also discovered the medium of 360° VR photography and I was immediately addicted. 

Q. How did you become a well-known 360VR photographer?

A: One day I climbed the highest mountain of Western Europe, Mont Blanc, and made (until now) the only full spherical 360° panorama on the summit. It got published on many websites. But back in Belgium, where there are no mountains, I also felt the urge to do something spectacular with these 360 panoramas. I got the idea to shoot with the same technology, 360° panorama’s from the rooftops of the highest towers in Brussels. I made a virtual tour out of that project on www.brusselsfromabove.be where you can jump from one tower to the other. That project won the prestigious VisitBrussels award and got also a lot of media attention in newspapers, local television, blogs, …

Q. Briefly talk us through what a shooting day is like for you…

A: Normal shooting day starts the evening before, charging all my batteries and collecting the gear I need for a shoot. If it’s a 360VR shoot, I work for the leading 360VR agency Poppr, and they send me to the coolest shoots around: mostly hotels, industry or tourism assignments. I like it very much because I can shoot locations where normally not that many people can come.

When I’m back home after a shoot, I copy all my images to my PC, ready for processing: making HDR’s, stitching together, post-processing or programming a tour.

Q. What items are included in your setup for a standard aerial 360 photo shoot-out?

A: When it’s in an area where it’s allowed to shoot with a drone, I use a DJI Mavic Pro 2 to fly and take 360VR panorama’s from above. But when it’s not allowed to fly, like in Brussels, I use a large telescopic tripod from NodalNinja, the TravelPole. It’s 6m high and mounted onto normal tripod legs. Of course, I can not press my shutter while my camera is 6m above the ground, so I use a MIOPS L-bracket and 2 Capsule360-motors to take all images I need for stitching the complete sphere of the panorama. My camera now is a Nikon D850 with a 16mm fisheye lens.

Q. What is the most difficult part of being a VR photographer for you? 

A: The cost of the equipment is quite large if you want to do it good. Finding cool assignments is also difficult, but that’s why I like working for Poppr. Many real estate company’s also do “cheap” 360° panoramas for virtual visits, but they do it with one shot cameras, and that’s not the quality I like to offer.

Q. What kind of editing tools do you use to create the 360 view photographs and which tools do you mainly use for post processing?

A:To stitch all separate photos together into one 360VR panorama, I use software that is not currently available anymore: Autopano Giga. But you can also use the superb PTGUI or the freeware Hugin for that. For retouching, I use Adobe Photoshop.

Q. What MIOPS products do you own, and what challenges do they allow you to overcome?

A:For shooting time lapses and panorama photography I use the MIOPS L-bracket in combination with 2 Capsule360’s. I also have a slider for the time lapses. For shooting lightnings and other cool stuff I use a MIOPS Smart Trigger.

Q. What camera settings do you need to take the most stunning aerial or 360 degree photograph?

A: I work completely with manual settings. Set my ISO as low as possible, for example ISO200, my diafragma on f8, manual focus to almost infinity and the shutter speed varies to the current light circumstances. When working on a high pole, it’s best to have as high shutter speeds as possible, because of the movement of the camera and the pole, so sometimes I have to increase my ISO there.

Q. What’s been your proudest moment as a photographer so far?

A: I’ve got 2 proud moments: First one is having won the VisitBrussels award for the 360VR Project BrusselsFromAbove and the other one is getting a photo of mine published in NationalGeographic Magazine of the Aurora Borealis (Northern Light) I made once in the north of Finland.

Check Out Herman's Personal Website