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The email read: “Congratulations—your photos have received over 50 million views! You’re a top photographer on Google Maps. You’ve just accomplished what few people have done! Keep it up!”

I had been producing Google Street View business tours since 2014, and I couldn’t help but smile. It was a big number that represented real shoppers that bring real dollars for real businesses.

The email from Google Maps went on to highlight a few of my clients’ significant traffic bumps achieved from the photos I had taken for them. Under normal circumstances I would probably have read the email and moved on quickly to my next task, but in light of the fact that we were more than six months into Covid shutdowns, I stopped to ponder some of the businesses and the impacts of the work I had done for them.

One local restaurant had over five million views, and a very tiny neighborhood eatery had over one-and-a-half million. I also noted a craft and yarn shop that had received over 400,000 views on a single photo and a photo that showed the viewer the way to a brand-new wine bar, located down a narrow pedestrian alley, that had already been seen 3,000 times.

Not all validation comes from hard numbers though. I recently received a big thank you from a client that just uploaded the new tour to their website. Now people can tour the theater and see views of the stage from a variety of sections in the seating area. This will save them a ton of time answering questions on the phone.

The photos and tours I have taken for my clients continue to showcase local businesses, even at times when customers could no longer visit their location in person. One restaurant owner had me shoot a new tour for her to show how they were implementing protocols for the safety of their customers and staff. I believe the immersive online nature of 360-degree photos and tours has contributed to their popularity over the last year.

I started doing 360-degree photography as a way to get bigger paying photography jobs. Doing Google Street View photography has been good to me, but what started out as a way to boost my bottom line is also helping other businesses boost theirs. At a time when we all want to find ways to help local business survive and thrive, that feels pretty good!

If you are interested in building your own 360-degree photography business or adding 360-degree photography to the services you offer, here are a few pointers to keep in mind:

1. There will be a bit of a learning curve to acquire the skills necessary to start offering your 360 work to clients, but you can learn the basics in a weekend. Once you get the hang of it, you will be amazed with what you can do.

2. Investing in a few key pieces of equipment is necessary, but that investment can be recouped with just a few jobs. You can do 360-degree photography using your existing camera, a fisheye lens, and a panohead to rotate the camera on a tripod (my preferred method), or you can purchase a specialized 360-degree camera. 

3. In order to build your 360-degree photos into tours, you will need to use some type of tour-building software. Many different options and price structures exist (even some free ones), so you’ll need to research what works best for the type of 360-degree work you want to do.

4. Offering Street View tours on Google Maps is one way to earn income from 360-degree photos, but there are also lots of other opportunities, such as real estate, hotels, tourism, and even stock photography.

And don’t forget to leverage your 360-degree clients for cross-sell potential. Many of my 360 clients have also ended up buying headshots, videos, product shots, and even family photos.