The Internet is a visual marketplace, one where long paragraphs of text often remain unread but where photographs create attention and keep people exploring your Web site. Virtual tours take photographs a step further. They offer consumers an online walk-through of properties. If consumers like what they see in photos they'll be more likely to contact you to see the property in person.
Most virtual tours are photographed using one of two methods. The first method uses a fisheye camera lens — a large lens that photographs a 180-degree view of what's in front of the lens and to the top, bottom, and sides of the camera. The view stretches much farther to each side of the camera than a wide-angle lens.
The photographer uses the fisheye lens to take one picture, then turns the camera around 180 degrees from the first position and shoots again. The images are uploaded to a computer where special software combines the photographs into one 360-degree picture (often called a panorama), which is placed on the Internet as a virtual tour.
The image in panorama moves as readers click on it with their computer mouse. It offers the same view you would see if you were standing in an area and turned your body in a full circle to view your surroundings from all angles.
Fisheye lenses can be expensive and they are not available for every camera. The manufacturer of this technology is iPix, which you'll find at
There are many individuals who will create iPix photos for you, for a fee. Your local MLS might have contact information for these individuals.
Standard Lens Virtual Tours
Another type of virtual tour software lets you use any digital camera, equipped with any lens, to take photos for your virtual tours. The photographer takes a picture, then turns the lens slightly, taking another. The left portion of the second photo overlaps a portion of the first. The photographer continues to turn in a circle, taking more photos that overlap each other on one side.
The photographs are uploaded to a computer where special software analyzes them, detecting the overlapped areas on the edges of photographs. It automatically merges the photographs, matches up edges, and stitches them together to create a panorama. The panorama is placed on the Internet to become a virtual tour.
The end result of this method is a panorama that takes you around the photographed area, but, because it was not created with a fisheye lens, it doesn't include the uppermost or lower areas of the view. That's a plus to some people who tend to get a queasy feeling when viewing rounded, moving photos online — they compare the feeling to carsickness.
Some preformatted Web sites offer agents a slide-show view. It doesn't use panoramic photos, but it allows you to place a series of pictures online. The slide show starts automatically when a viewer clicks a button on the screen, moving one by one through the photographs that you have provided.
Some agents also use digital video and audio to promote their listings. Video with sound can be a powerful advertising tool. Think of a rushing stream, the sound of a waterfall, or the sound of birds singing from a private, wooded estate. Video and audio are just two more tools you can use to promote your listings on the World Wide Web.