Tim Sweeney

May 21, 2015
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Found this video showing what appears to be a Google Trusted Photographer capturing "see inside street views/business views" using a device called the Theta S. While I know that Trusted Photographers and Agencies have to sign a non-disclosure agreement, I would be curious if Google is yet again changing the Trusted program and whether a device such as the Theta S will become acceptable?

I have a Theta S which I use to capture photospheres of points of interests other than businesses. These photospheres are uploaded via the Street Views app. My understanding is that the Theta S lacks the image quality to be included as an approved device for the Trusted program.

Note, once you get use to using the Theta S, you can capture and upload Street Views rather quickly. It also makes for a good conversation piece when people see you use it in public.

Adam Potaznik

Jan 26, 2016
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Hi Tim, I don't see many trusted photographers on this forum so I will explain for you and other forum members what's happened as this is going to affect Local search. Yes you can use the Theta S but there is more to it. The NDA was taken away already back in September 2015. I first found out about the GTP program in November after the program changed, but in the last few months the program has changed even more.

Some background, creating virtual tours for Google Maps is now my main business. I have done 100 photo shoots inside mostly retail locations, in the past six weeks. Most of these tours are 12 nodes, the biggest has been 34.

I use the traditional GTP kit of a DSLR with a panohead, Fisheye and tripod, using HDR. There are a lot of "professional artist" kind of photographers who have been part of the program for a long time and as you can see from the comments on that video, are not happy about the new changes. These people shoot in RAW, take a long time to do shoots, do lots of post-processing in LR and PS, maybe PS out the tripods in reflections, balance the lighting, etc and charge a certain amount for their services.

Google was not getting enough content from these partners. They saw that there were going to be a lot of 360 cameras launching in H2 2016 so they changed the GTP program effective 1st July as a way to focus on getting more information on the physical world. The next step is Project Tango which is outside the scope of this post.

Anyway, My shooting method with DSLR is a lot faster than most people, we shoot in JPG, still with HDR but work fast and on volume. Google wants even more content, so they have lowered the requirements effective now. You don't need HDR, The Theta S, Samsung 360 and LG camera will work ok.

The program has also changed. Quality Control has gone out the window. To qualify at a trusted photographer, you used to have to do 10 tours of 5 nodes, now you have to do 50 nodes. You can go door to door with a Theta S and do one node at 50 different business locations and become a trusted photographer.

The finished result is not as good as with proper glass however to most customers it will be "good enough" and this is what the current photographers don't like. Google however is working on image recognition algorithms - they just bought a company a few days ago in this area, and I am told that tours with higher quality/resolution will still matter and be recognised as such.

Tim Sweeney

May 21, 2015
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Adam - Thanks for the detailed information. We looked at the GTP in August last year but simply didn't have the time to go through the training. As you might imagine, I did a double take when I watched the video due to what I remembered was all the equipment that was recommended being reduced to the Theta S, a tripod, and perhaps some software.

You mentioned all the 360 cameras coming out and project Tango. I've read about Tango and also all the investments in VR and video G and Facebook are making. It would appear we might be moving to VR video sooner or later as the next version of Street Views. (Speculation on my part)

Very appreciative of you taking the time to provide your insights. I'm going back to take another look at the GTP program.

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