How To Make A Virtual Tour With Insta360 Cameras, by Ben Claremont

In this video, Ben Claremont, a professional 360 virtual tour creator, explains best practices for shooting and editing 360 photos using the Insta360 ONE RS 1-inch 360 camera to achieve high quality virtual tours. Key steps covered include optimal camera settings like PureShot HDR mode, ideal positioning and room coverage, color correcting DNG files in Lightroom, stitching in Insta360 Studio, cloning out tripods, and exporting to various virtual tour platforms.


If you’ve ever thought about making virtual tours and own an Insta360 camera, you’re probably wondering, which is the best workflow, which shooting settings should you use, and how should you stitch and edit your shots for maximum quality.

In this video, I’ll take you behind the scenes as I make a professional virtual tour with the Insta360 ONE RS 1 inch 360 and reveal all of my best tips for shooting and editing 360 photos to achieve the best results with any Insta360 camera.

Big thanks goes out to Insta360 for sponsoring this video. However, as always, all opinions within the video are 100% my own. Now let’s shoot. If you’re shooting an interior, which most virtual tours are, putting on the house lights will help light up darker areas of your location.

So do that if you feel it will help. If there’s any outdoor areas you want to feature, then be sure to make a clear pathway between indoors and outdoors so you can connect them easily later. Finally, do a quick walkthrough of your location and do a 360 with your own eyes before shooting to see if anything needs to be tidied or hidden from shot.

If all is clear, it’s time to get out our gear. And you don’t need a lot of gear to shoot virtual tours. The main ones being your 360 camera, here I’m using the ONE RS 1 inch and a monopod. Here I’m using the brand new Bushman Monopod Pro.

These aren’t the cheapest options out there, but they are two high quality pieces of gear if you’ve got a budget of around $1 ,000. You can definitely use a cheaper camera and monopod if you prefer to keep costs down.

Now once you’ve assembled the monopod and attached your camera, you’ll want to double check that it’s perfectly straight and level. Next, it’s a good idea to clean the lens with a lens cloth that came for free with the camera because who wants smudges in their shots.

Now that the setup is done, yeah, that was easy. It’s time to choose the best shooting settings. And there are two ways to change your settings, the first one being on the camera. However, I find with the one inch that the screen is a bit too small, which is why instead I connect to the camera through my phone to take advantage of the much bigger phone.

This will make changing your settings and activating your shots so much quicker. So which shooting settings should you use? Well, the first place to start and this is something that is unique only to Insta360 cameras is Pure Shot mode.

They released Pure Shot mode around two years ago and this essentially enhances the dynamic range of photos through taking multiple shots and combining them into one while also reducing noise and preserving detail resulting in a much more vibrant image.

So if you own the X3 or 1×2 you’ll want to use Pure Shot mode as well as with the 1R and 1RS. The 1 inch has Pure Shot mode as well however it does one up all the other Insta360 cameras in an even better Pure Shot mode which is called Pure Shot HDR.

And what this does is it takes the Pure Shot that we were shooting before but this time it auto brackets the shots meaning you can shoot anywhere from 3 to 9 Pure Shot photos and have them combined into one ultra high dynamic range photo.

And right now the one inch is the only camera that has this feature. To activate it, instead of going to our regular shooting mode we’re going to go into HDR photo mode. And up the top make sure pure shot is selected.

Next we can change a couple of things, A -E -B, which refers to the amount of photos we’ll take. And E -V, which refers to the amount of stops apart each of those photos are. So you could choose five shots, two stops apart, or you could choose nine shots, one stop apart.

And this is the setting I would recommend choosing because it’s taking more overall shots and they’re closer in range, which means you’re capturing more of the overall dynamic range than shots that are way darker or way lighter than the other shots.

Once your camera is set up in HDR pure shot mode with nine shots or one stop apart it should stay like that for your entire shoot. So you only have to set it once and you’re good to go. So this is by far the best shooting workflow for the one inch.

For X3, 1×2, 1rs and 1r, it’s choosing single shot, pure shot mode. And for any of the older Insta360 cameras pre 1r, the best shooting mode is going to be using in -build HDR. Before you start shooting, you’ll want to set your white balance manually to avoid shots looking too yellow or too blue going from room to room.

Because lighting conditions within a big location can change significantly. So set your white balance by eye to what you think is the right balance of warm to cool. For this hotel room, it seems to be around 4 ,500 Kelvin.

Next you want to set yourself timer. This can be anywhere from three seconds to 50. 515 and I found 3 to be the sweet spot because that’s just enough time to run and hide. So now that the camera is fully set, it’s time to choose the best position for it.

And this should be pretty obvious, you want to showcase the main areas of your location so make sure your camera has a clear central view of everything. You will want to avoid it getting too close to objects in the room because this can cause stitching errors in extreme cases.

As long as the lens of the camera is 2 plus feet away from anything and yes that includes objects below like couches and tables, you should find that stitching isn’t an issue. To take a shot, press the capture button on the camera or your phone and you want to make sure you’re nice and hidden so find yourself a good hiding spot around the corner.

And always be sure to check for reflections because sometimes you think you’re hidden but you’re not because a lot of interiors have mirrors and reflective surfaces that you probably didn’t realise can see you.

From this point the shoot is going to go super fast. All you need to do is move the camera around the room roughly 6 feet apart making sure there’s a clear line of sight from shot to shot. If you’re shooting an exterior like I am here on the balcony, you’re going to be a bit more prone to error because of the sun potentially causing lens flares or washing out your shot.

So I would advise taking multiple shots if you’re not quite sure what the best camera placement is. Sometimes it’s best with the seam line facing the sun, sometimes that’s not an issue. But since the outdoor area is likely to have higher overall contrast, you’ll want to try multiple shots and be sure to download and preview your shots before you move on to make sure you didn’t mess up either the exposure or the stitching.

Now go ahead and capture the rest of your location again making sure there’s a clear line of sight from shot to shot. It’s always better to overshoot a location than undershoot it. So if you’re not quite confident how everything’s going to link together later then make sure you get plenty of shots in the common areas like hallways and big open rooms with multiple door frames in different areas.

And that’s a wrap, it’s time to edit. And the first step of the editing workflow after backing up your files is stitching your shots. This is a really straightforward process and can be done quickly and easily inside the free software.

Insta360 Studio. I would strongly advise doing this on desktop as opposed to mobile because you’re going to get far superior quality with this workflow. While stitching Insta360 Studio is automatically going to merge all of your shots so you don’t have to.

And I’m just going to repeat this you do not need to merge your HDR shots manually in Photoshop, Lightroom or Affinity Photo because it’s done right here in Insta360 Studio. The next step is exporting your shots to do that, select all then right click and choose start export.

Choose your save location, don’t select this unless you want every single individual exposure. Keep horizon leveling on and start export. Now that’s it we’ve stitched our shots. If you do want to download my shots to play with yourself as we move on to the next stage which is color correction.

I’m going to make all of the shots from this shoot available to you guys completely free by going to virtualtuapro .com slash one inch and you’ll find them all there to edit to your heart’s content. So let’s color correct.

And color correction is actually optional, depending on how much effort you want to put into getting your photos as perfect as they can be. If you’re someone that wants to shoot a lot of volume and you don’t care so much about color correction, you can completely skip this step because after stitching, Insta360 Studio will generate a semi -color corrected pure shot photo that is good enough to post as is.

As you can see here, it will export two versions of your photos. The first one will be the HDR shot with the color correction applied. The second will be an uncolor corrected version that also has the DNG file.

And within this, there’s going to be a lot more information for us to go and color correct if we want to produce an even better result than the automatic color correction. So I’ve copied and pasted the DNG files from this shoot into one folder to make things easy.

Now I’m going to right click all of them and color correct them inside my favorite color correction software, which is Adobe Lightroom. Now I’m going to bring down the highlights on this DNG file. As you can see in this window area, bringing down the highlights brings back a lot of that detail.

We also have some shadowy areas under the sink and elsewhere in the image. So I’m going to bring the shadow slider up as well. I’m going to bring up the vibrant slider to bring some color back into this room.

And now this is starting to look really accurate to how the lighting and colors actually looked when I was there. And just with those three sliders alone, take a look at the before and after. So you can well imagine what spending more time on this image could potentially do.

Now I’m going to copy this edit over to my other photos. So it applies similar highlight recovery, shadow reduction and vibrance. And there we go. Each of these images is looking so good. The copy paste method works with similar rooms.

So a lot of the interiors, it worked well. However, with the balcony, the interior is still a bit dark. So I’m going to bring up the shadows all the way as well as the exposure and compensate in the highlights by bringing the whites down.

Here’s the before. Here’s the after. That is so much better. Now I’ll export these shots from Lightroom as JPEGs. and now done with the DNGs, we got the most out of them. So exporting as a large JPEG is fine.

And if you want to learn my entire color correction workflow within Adobe Lightroom, you can find an entire Lightroom masterclass inside my virtual tour pro course. Once you’ve color corrected, the next step is removing the tripod from your shots.

And don’t worry, this shouldn’t take too long. There are two softwares I recommend for this. The first one is Touch Retouch, which is relatively cheap and allows you to navigate around your 360 so you can isolate the tripod without any negative effects on the equirectangular.

The other one is Affinity Photo, which has become the definitive 360 photo editing software for editing in 360. Ever since Photoshop dropped its 360 editing capabilities, Affinity has become the one and only choice for 360 photographers who want to move around the image as they edit while having most of the functionalities that Photoshop has.

Now, after we’ve painted the tripod out of our 360s, there is an optional step, which you’re more than welcome to skip. If you’re someone like me that wants to get… Every last pixel perfect. Every speck of noise wiped away and every line as sharp as it can be, you may wanna consider picking up the Topaz suite.

Specifically, Dean noise and gigapixel, which will help both remove noise and sharpen and upscale your shots to look twice as sharp as the image you started with. Again, though, this is pretty advanced and not necessary in most situations.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to follow the right workflow. Look at the difference between a JPEG straight out of the camera and an edited pure shot HDR DNG file. You really can make a big improvement by spending a couple of minutes editing.

I’d say this took me no longer than 10 minutes total and I was able to significantly enhance the dynamic range, the colors, the noise and the sharpness, which is why I’d recommend following a workflow similar to this if you’re shooting virtual tours professionally for paid clients.

Finally, all you need to do is upload your shots to a virtual tour platform. And there’s no shortage of options here. There are literally hundreds of virtual tour platforms, many of which I cover and compare on my channel.

However, if you’re a beginner just starting out, I would recommend something like Cooler because it’s the best bang for your buck and the final results do look pretty professional. If you really want to use Matterport, then the Insta360 cameras that are compatible with it right now are the One X, One X2 and One R and the One inch should be compatible pretty soon.

Keep in mind though that you won’t be able to follow the workflows I discussed in this video. Since Matterport forces you to shoot within the Matterport app where it chooses all the settings automatically.

Finally, you can also upload to Google Street view with any Insta360 camera. Some cameras make this much easier than others and I will be covering this in depth in one of my upcoming videos. So now that you know the best workflow for your Insta360 camera, the next question you probably have is how do I earn my first dollar with virtual tours?

Because knowing the technical skills is one thing, but without having the knowledge to effectively monetize that skill, then it will never become anything more than just a hobby, which is why you want to check out my free training that will share my top 10 tips for starting a profitable virtual tour business from scratch.

Happy 360 and I’ll see you there.