A Guide to 360 Photos in Construction | Multivista

A Guide to 360 Photos in Construction

A panoramic view of 360 photos

Photo documentation is now the norm in the construction industry. How does 360-degree photography fit in?

In the construction industry, photo documentation plays a crucial role in capturing the progress and details of a project. From pre-construction to completion, photo documentation gives all key stakeholders a visual record of the entire construction process, providing numerous benefits that span communication, risk management, and analysis.

360 cameras can help you easily gather documentation throughout the lifecycle of a construction project. But what exactly is a 360-degree camera, how does the technology work, and what are its benefits? Let’s dive in.

The basics of
360 photo documentation

360 photo documentation offers significant advantages in the construction industry. But how does the process work?

What is 360 photo documentation in construction?

Traditional 2D images of construction sites are created by taking multiple shots with a digital single-lens reflex camera (DSLR) or smartphone while rotating on a fixed point. These partial panorama images don’t cover the full 360 degrees of a location, but capture a flat area with lots of pixels.

Multivista service typically uses this traditional 2D photo format to capture a site's MEP, slab, or other exact-built conditions. The image quality in these cases will be very high, and are often focused on the areas most important to our clients.

A 360-degree photo, on the other hand, is a fully spherical panoramic image. It captures a complete spherical view of the surroundings from floor to ceiling (or from ground to sky), capturing every angle.

The basics of
360 photo documentation

360 photo documentation offers significant advantages in the construction industry. But how does the process work?

How does 360 photo documentation work?

Specialized 360 cameras for construction use multiple wide-angle lenses to capture all angles of a shot at once. Depending on the specific camera, it might take simultaneous photos of six angles — front, back, left, right, top, and bottom — or use an extremely wide-angle lens to capture two images, each with a field view of over 180 degrees. Either way, the images can then be stitched together to get a full 360-degree view.

By taking these photos at a set cadence and at consistent locations around the site, you can clearly document progress and easily refer to useful details (e.g. the location of outlets and plumbing).

Once photos are taken around the site, photos are uploaded to a documentation platform through an app or online portal, allowing the photos to be viewed and easily accessed by stakeholders and partners both onsite and in the office for better collaboration. In addition, the photos can be analyzed by supporting AI software within the documentation platform.

Read more about how photo documentation works

What’s the best 360 camera for construction?

There’s no single best 360 camera for construction sites; the best camera for you will depend on your organization’s unique needs and priorities. Cost and photo quality are perhaps the two most obvious considerations, but you’ll also want to compare capture speed, ease of use, battery life, lighting capabilities, and integrations.

Camera considerations

Capture speed. Especially if you need to capture lots of photos across a large site, you’ll want a faster capture speed to move the process along.

Ease of use. Not everyone on your site will have extensive photography experience, so opting for a camera with user-friendly features and intuitive controls can save time and frustration.

Battery life. On-site power sources may be limited, and you don’t want to wait around for your camera to recharge. Look for a long battery life and/or batteries that can easily be swapped out.

Lighting capabilities. In many cases, lighting will not yet be installed when 360 photos need to be captured. Some cameras have special settings and modes to automatically compensate for low-light conditions, or come with lighting accessories like 360° LED lights.

Available integrations. To seamlessly incorporate 360 images into your existing workflows, look for cameras that are compatible with your existing project management platform, image editing software, and/or other tools.

Who manages 360 photos in construction?

When it comes to 360 photography on a construction site, there are two main options to consider: handling the photography process in-house or hiring a professional team to manage it.

Ultimately, the decision between managing 360 photography in-house or hiring a third-party team will depend on your budget constraints, available resources within your organization, desired level of control over the process, and project requirements. Assessing these factors will help you make an informed decision that aligns with your specific needs.

In-house photography

To keep everything in-house, you’ll need to invest in the necessary equipment and provide sufficient training to prepare your existing employees to take on 360 photo capture. With this approach, you’re in total control of your workflow, but you also have total responsibility over the capture process, QA (Quality Assurance), photo storage, and photo access — which means you’re taking on more risk.

It’s also important to consider the labor, training, and equipment costs associated with this option. Training employees will require time and resources, especially if they are not familiar with 360 photography techniques. Additionally, purchasing high-quality equipment can be a significant upfront investment, and if the equipment breaks, you’ll be left without photo documentation until it’s fixed.

Third-party photography

Outsourcing to an experienced third-party team can take the photo documentation burden off your shoulders. A professional 360 photo provider will know how to capture optimal shots for your needs and will handle the entire workflow, from capture to QA to photo storage and access. This saves time for your in-house team to focus on other vital work.

Dive deeper into considerations for 360 photo management

What are the benefits of 360 construction photos?

360 photography is a valuable tool in the construction industry, helping teams enhance communication, risk management, record-keeping, and more.

Benefits of 360 photos

Identify risks earlier. Photo documentation can help you identify potential risks before they escalate into costly rework issues. 360 photos make it easier to compare actual progress to the original plan to look for discrepancies.

Reduce unnecessary site visits. Photo documentation reduces the need for frequent on-site visits, as stakeholders can refer to the captured images for clarification rather than physically walking the site.

Maintain detailed records. Construction photo documentation can be used as a record of earlier stages of a project, as evidence in legal disputes, to confirm work completed for payment applications, and more.

Track milestone progression. Photo documentation can provide evidence that you’ve reached a milestone so you can initiate billing faster and get paid on time, with a lower risk of payment disputes.

Gather business intelligence. By capturing a comprehensive view of the construction site from all angles, 360 photos can also provide valuable insights that facilitate effective decision-making and change management.

Learn how to increase these benefits by taking more frequent photos

Are there challenges associated with 360 photos?

While using a 360-degree camera for construction documentation comes with numerous benefits, there are also a few common challenges to be aware of.

Capture challenges

With 360 photos, it can be challenging to keep the photographer out of the images. Luckily, many cameras now come equipped with remote shutters or timers that allow photographers to either step out of the frame or crouch below the monopod before capturing the image. Multivista Documentation Specialists take the latter approach.

Are there challenges associated with 360 photos?

While using a 360-degree camera for construction documentation comes with numerous benefits, there are also a few common challenges to be aware of.

Zoom limitations

360 photos generally don’t allow you to zoom in on distant objects in high definition. While 360 photos provide an immersive and panoramic view, they usually can’t capture fine details of objects that are far away. One way to address this challenge is to take supplemental photos with a traditional camera in areas where you might need to view details close up.

Are there challenges associated with 360 photos?

While using a 360-degree camera for construction documentation comes with numerous benefits, there are also a few common challenges to be aware of.

Barriers to entry

Getting started with 360 photography can be daunting at first. The specialized equipment, skills, and software required may seem overwhelming, and that prevents many companies from moving forward with this helpful technology. However, working with a professional provider who specializes in construction photography can help alleviate these challenges and ensure you get good results.

How different stakeholders use 360 photos

Architects & Designers

With 360 photos, designers and architects can easily monitor and compare construction progress to the agreed-upon design, and flag any issues as soon as they appear. If design changes are needed, they can then refer to the images to collaborate and make decisions.

When immersive 360 images are linked directly to floor plans, designers and architects can also virtually “walk through” the job site without physically being present, saving them valuable time and effort.

General Contractors & Project Managers

Between troubleshooting, responding to RFIs, creating schedules, and trying to keep everything on time and within budget, general contractors and project managers often have a lot on their plate — especially with complex projects.

360 photos allow project teams to view all parts of the project and monitor progress over time. When everyone across teams is referring to the same detailed images, that enables smoother collaboration and communication — not to mention lowering the risk of disputes. Depending on your tech stack, 360 images can even be linked directly to schedules, reminders, change orders, and notifications, which saves time for general contractors and project managers by reducing back-and-forth communication.

Owners & Developers

360 construction photos offer numerous benefits to owners and developers, including significant time, cost, and resource savings.

With a solution like Multivista, which allows an unlimited number of stakeholders to securely access and view the 360 construction photos both on- and off-site, owners and developers can easily stay involved and informed throughout the project lifecycle.

Most importantly, 360 photos help reduce risk. With a comprehensive view of the site, potential issues can be identified more efficiently, leading to quicker resolutions, less rework, fewer disputes, and improved overall project quality.

What is the future of 360 photos in construction?

As with many other construction technologies, the future of 360 photo documentation is intertwined with artificial intelligence (AI).

As AI technology continues to advance, it will become faster and easier to extract insights from 360 photo documentation and use them to improve quality assurance and enhance project management processes. By leveraging machine learning algorithms to process 360 photos, AI can also identify and flag potential issues or discrepancies in construction projects. This automated analysis will not only save time but also improve accuracy and prevent costly rework.

Furthermore, 360 photos will increasingly be integrated into other documentation workflows, such as 3D laser scanning. Combining these technologies allows for a more holistic approach to capturing project data, resulting in more accurate documentation and more streamlined workflows.

Multivista’s 360 Photo services

As the global leader in construction documentation, Multivista will give you the insights you need to better manage your projects.

With our 360 Photo services, project teams can update schedules, demonstrate progress to stakeholders, resolve RFIs and change orders, manage disputes, and get paid faster.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Your local Multivista team will work with you to create a schedule of progress shoots at a cadence that works for you.
  2. Multivista Documentation Specialists use HDR-enabled 360 cameras to capture comprehensive interior and exterior views of your entire job site.
  3. Project photos and interactive floor plans are made available to project stakeholders and partners via Multivista’s cloud-based platform. Photos can also be shared to your preferred third-party project management software.
  4. Your project teams leverage the photos to make informed decisions and streamline processes.

See what Multivista’s 360 Photo services can do for your company.

Get a Demo