DC area businesses are taking advantage of a new Google tool to move beyond the street view and allow customers around the world a glimpse into their businesses through a virtual tour.
Will Marlow, who has been certified as a “Google trusted photographer,” was in Georgetown creating one of these tours for Charles Luck Stone Center, 1111 34th St. NW , on a cold day in the first week of 2013. The business is tucked away just south of M Street at the westernmost edge of Cady's Alley.
Paradigm Building Group did the interior construction of the Charles Luck Stone building and it was Paradigm that asked Marlow to do a virtual tour.
"Many people don't visit Cady's Alley unless they have a specific need and would miss this beautiful structure, so a virtual tour offers them a sneak peek of the showroom from the comfort of their home," Jen Winter, who heads up marketing for Paradigm, explained in an email to Patch.
Marlow estimates he has created about 50 of these tours for DC area businesses. Charles Luck Stone Center was his first in Georgetown.
Google contacted Marlow last February as the program was just launching. Marlow took a training through Google and uses a Google-supplied camera and software to create virtual tours for businesses big and small.
As Clarendon Patch reported in October:
Trusted photographers are not Google employees, but photographers who have been certified “because they meet Google’s standards of quality for taking the feature pictures and panoramic pictures,” according to a Google spokesperson.
As he meticulously worked his way around the stone center, Marlow used a compass to find true north and a special balance to make sure the photos could turn out just so.
"What Google cares about is portraying the location in way that is accurate," he explained.
He started outside of the store and then moved his tripod inside, first five feet from the entrance, then ten. Each time adjusting the camera for several second to make sure the focus is the same, the aperture is the same and the camera is balanced.
Google wants to create a "realistic experience" of the space.
That is not to say that a cloudy day or poor lighting will impact the way a shoot turns out. With each click, the camera takes three shots with three different exposures so later Marlow can perform a "high resolution blend" to create the perfect lighting.
Businesses are taking note.
"I thought it was a great way to show Paradigm Building Group's abilities, as well as give exposure to our commercial clients,"
The Charles Luck Stone Center was the first tour Paradigm contracted Marlow to do for them. But they already have another lined up for their renovation of an 1869-building that is home to Trummer's on Main in Clifton, Va.
Paradigm is now offering the Google virtual tours as an added service to clients, according to this blog post on the company website.
Though Marlow is one of four Google trusted photographers in the region, he said he believes he has done the most tours in this area.
Photographers charge between $500 and $1,000.
See more of Marlow's tours at his website for his Google work, Circle View Photos.
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