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Santa Maria Sun / Biz Spotlight

The following article was posted on December 27th, 2012, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 13, Issue 42 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 42

Spotlight on: Evolving Photography

BY FRANK GONZALES

If you’ve ever been impressed with the level of virtual exploration now possible on the Internet with tools like Google Maps, Google Earth, and Google Street View, prepare to be even more amazed. Evolving Photography is a new business that’s sprouted in a new industry taking advantage of Google’s new venture, creatively called Google Business Photos. In a nutshell, co-owner Mahius Concord describes the business as having “a focus on creating imagery and virtual tours for businesses.” Concord runs the business with his wife, Kristina, who specializes in the photography aspect.


ANOTHER DIMENSION:
Mahius and Kristina Concord will bring any Central Coast business into virtual reality.
PHOTO BY FRANK GONZALES

“I just love meeting people and love taking pictures,” she said of her work.

The two moved down from Washington state’s San Juan Island once Google opened up the new program in Central Coast cities.

“We have done tours from Paso Robles down to Thousand Oaks,” Mahius said.

So far, they’ve created tours for “close to 40” businesses. As for the types of businesses and the subjects of their photography, he listed “product photography, real estate, bottle shots for wineries, food photography for restaurants, as well as just business locations and architecture.” While this kind of photography may sound mundane, the Concords bring out the beauty in the simplicity of their subjects, thanks to their experience in artistic photography.

“We had a photography business. … It focused more on landscapes and prints and greeting cards and things like that,” Mahius said.

Mahius estimated the cost of virtualizing a business “between $500 and $800”—a one-time fee—and Google acts as the host for the tour “forever after that.” While this may sound like a lot of money, it’s actually extremely reasonable for the amount of work that the virtualization process takes. For each business the Concords take between 500 and 1,000 photos, Mahius estimated. Of those, 200 or so go into the multiple 360-degree panoramas that detail every inch of the business’s interior.

“Each panorama is done with 12 photos, three photos every 90 degrees, and then it’s stitched together in HDR on Google’s end,” he explained.

The panoramas are then taken every 10 to 15 feet within the business, connected by lines that allow an online visitor to virtually move through the interior, scanning all around.

Mahius estimated that the entire photo-taking process runs about two hours, plus twice that for editing. Along with the photos, Mahius also makes use of his own stated background in “computer repair, web design, and graphic design” to assist businesses with their online presence by setting up links for their new Google Business Photos on their Facebook page and website.

To do all of this, the Concords first had to get certified as photographers by Google.

“Google-certified photographers basically means we have been through the testing and have all the required equipment and are set up with them to provide streetview virtual tours for the inside of businesses,” Mahius said.

By crowd-sourcing the work of photographing businesses like those the Concords cover, Google has opened up virtual tours to “a lot of small businesses that don’t have a large presence [that]have been wanting to do it,” he explained. As an example of what this means for a local business, he used the example of Santa Maria’s Skip’s Barbecue, which the Concords recently brought online.

“If you are searching for barbecue in Santa Maria, on the front page of Google you have local listings for the barbecue restaurants,” he said. “Next to Skip’s [Barbecue], if you hover over their name, right on the front page of Google is the initial photo and a link that says come inside and see the virtual tour.”

The Concords are excited about the prospects of this new line of work: “It’s definitely growing and catching on. I think it’s something that’s really new,” Mahius said. Because the passion the Concords have for their work is far from virtual, they’re likely to be a big story in the industry’s growth.

“We enjoy almost everything about it: meeting people, networking, the photography itself,” he said. “The virtual tours are a lot of fun to create and moderate the backend of Google maps, but we also just enjoy taking pictures and helping people enhance their online image.”

For more information about Evolving Photography and the services it provides, go to evolvingphotography.com.

Biz Spotlight was written by Intern Frank Gonzales. Information should be sent to the Sun via fax, e-mail, or mail.