Photo Director Allyson Torrisi of Popular Mechanics Explores Virtual Reality with You Visit

February 9, 2016

By Allyson Torrisi

© YouVisit

Yale University photographed through YouVisit Virtual Reality, new cutting-edge technology that will affect future photo assignments with 360° content.

I sit still, the headset is placed over my eyes, and is fitted like a cap. My body is in New York, but my brain is in Boston. There is beautiful light coming in the window. As I turn one way I see a piano, directly in front of me, clothing and ephemera of a stranger. I am getting used to seeing things move and the surreal nature of feeling inside of the environment that my brain is in, I move my New York body forward, turn to see if this image/space continues behind me, and to my surprise there is a DOG !

I am curious about Virtual Reality and Virtual Environments, not only from the perspective of how amazingly cool it is to have this headset on, and to be transported elsewhere in nano seconds, but as a Photo Director and professional in the photography industry. I am wondering, how long before I am assigning 360 content and VR experiences; how do I get the already incredibly talented photographer base that I work with, ready for this next adventure in content creation. So I called on my friends at You Visit, a 360 / VR Creation company in Manhattan, and asked then a few questions.

AT: Can you start by telling me the mission statement of YouVisit?

YV : YouVisit’s mission is to empower the world to create and share engaging, memorable, and immersive experiences that are as close to real life as possible.

AT: Can you define a photographer’s role in VR today?

YV: Today’s photographer will play an important role in the rise and proliferation of virtual reality. If predictions about virtual reality’s adoption are accurate, in the next 10 years there will be a huge demand for 360 content, and those who recognize this can be the trendsetters of tomorrow. Learning how to create compelling 360 content will give today’s photographers an edge as the demand for immersive content grows.

AT: What are five basic things a photographer should know to get started in VR?

1. Creating VR content is not as hard as it first sounds. With the right equipment, many photographic principles carry over.
2. The photography industry is oversaturated, so it’s important to pay attention to new trends. There is a growing demand for virtual reality content, and smart photographers will recognize it as an opportunity to set themselves apart.
3. 360 photography is not a gimmick. With the Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, and Google Cardboard, 360 photography is becoming a must-have skill.
4. Keep in mind that there are certain kinds of subjects that work especially well and others that don’t. For example, architecture works well, portraits do not.
5. When shooting 360s, the most important thing to ask yourself is “why?” You should ask yourself why you are shooting a particular scene as a 360, as opposed to traditional photography. If you can answer this question, your scene will be more effective.

AT: What sort of financial investment is required to get started in VR?

YV: As in all areas of photography, the quality of 360 content increases as you spend more, but getting started doesn’t cost much. A cheap fisheye for your crop or full frame camera in addition to a 360 tripod mount can get photographers up and running for less than $1,000. Your investment increases when you involve sharper lenses, as well as additional, better camera bodies.

AT: If I am coming from a still photo background, how would I get started in VR?

YV: Purchase a fisheye, find a panorama head for a tripod that fits your budget, and download one of many 360 stitching applications. From shooting to processing, there is a wealth of literature online that explains how to create 360 images. Once you’ve done a few, you will be able to run with the process.

If I am coming from a motion background, how to I push that forward to a career in VR?

YV: 360 video is a booming industry in need of talented videographers to meet the growing demand for compelling

content. Like with traditional video, potential clients want to see that you have experience and a reel to back it up. Start producing 360 content now to build your VR reel and get ahead of the late adopters.

AT: Do you see VR becoming mainstream?

YV: We do see VR becoming mainstream, and it’s obvious that some of the largest companies in the world agree. Facebook’s purchase of Oculus for $2 billion, Google’s recent delivery of its one millionth Cardboard, GoPro’s purchase of Kolor…these are all signs that VR is gaining momentum. Analysts see the industry topping $30 billion in revenue over the next five years, huge growth for such a short period of time.

AT: Do you hire photographers and train them?

YV: YouVisit maintains a core team of photographers that we have trained under an established set of guidelines and aesthetics. In doing so, we are able to maintain consistent quality across the board for all of our projects.

AT: If so , what do you look for?

YV: Your typical YouVisit photographer is a jack of all trades—they have experience in just about all forms of photography, and can easily pick up new techniques. In the VR space, we’re all try to do things that have never been done before, so we need people who are continually innovating and helping solve unanswered problems. But YouVisit looks for more than just strong photographers when we’re hiring. We need team players who can coordinate with other photographers, developers, and clients to create the very best content possible.

AT: What kind of photography VR community exists?
To be honest, there isn’t much of a photography VR community today. One of YouVisit’s goals is to build and nurture this community because we think virtual reality is going to have a huge impact on content creation. In fact, we launched our first “Stitched: The Intersection of VR & Photography” event a month ago, and we found that there was very little awareness about VR in the photography community. Most photographers thought virtual reality had more to do with gaming or video. Once they became aware about how VR would impact photography, they were extremely interested in learning more. I think there has to be a lot of education in the photography community about VR and its potential impact on the industry.

AT: What types of photographers should consider joining the VR community?

YV: I think any photographer who is interested in cutting-edge technologies, who is interested in creative experimentation, and wants to be on the forefront of an industry that is going to change the way the world creates and view content. Photographers who want to build a monetizable business should also consider joining the VR community.

Virtual reality is the future of immersive content. YouVisit’s innovative platform allows you to showcase your business or institution in the most engaging and realistic way available today, using a combination of 3D 360° panoramas and 3D 360° videos to create the best virtual reality experience. Build excitement and engagement by virtually transporting viewers to your location and making them feel as if they are physically there.