What is a Google Trusted Photographer?
Google Photographers are better known as Google Street View Trusted Photographers. They integrate Google Street View inside businesses and add them to Google Maps. A Google 360 Tour is a virtual walkthrough that allows customers online to look around interior spaces.
Google Photographers are not employees of Google. They are independent contractors hired by businesses to provide Google’s photography services. However, the photographers who were part of the 2012-2016 class, were contacted directly by Google. They went through training and exams by Google. Originally called Google Business Photos or Google Business View, the photographers worked with Google staff to get these 360 images onto Google. The Google Business View program did eventually end leaving Google Photographers on their own. So if you can find some of these original Google Photographers, we would highly recommend them. The original photographers have the experience and foundation of what makes a quality Google 360 Tour.
Why Hire a Google Virtual Tour Photographer?
If you would like a 360 Tour of your business added to Google Maps, you will need to hire a Google Photographer. Professional photographers do not have the certification to upload 360 Tours to Google for you. As mentioned, the photographers have training and experience with panoramic photography. The photographer will come to your location and record many panoramic images of your business in 360. From there, Customers can take a 360 walkthrough of your location when they are looking at your Google Business Page. This includes places like Google Search, Google Maps, and their Google Maps App for Mobile devices. Click here to see an example of what it looks like.
What’s the difference between a Google Trusted Agency and Google Trusted Photographer?
A Google Trusted Agency is a web agency that received a certification to upload 360 Tours to Google. They are not an agency that works for Google, but instead an independent agency. They share similarities to “Google Partners” (Certification to sell Google Ads), but instead of ads, it’s Virtual Tours. Google Trusted Agencies should have a Google Photographer on their team but can hire out regular freelance photographers. The agency will be the ones that publish the 360 images onto Google.
Here at RichTeaMedia360, we are a Marketing Agency and have an original Google Photographer in-house. We also have worked together on national campaigns with both Google Trusted Agencies and International Google Photographers. They both have their pros and cons, here is the best feedback from our experience working with both:
Google Trusted Agency:
- Provides a wide range of services more than just Google Virtual Tours
- Services can be a bit diluted, and may not be a specialist in Virtual Tour photography.
- Sometimes contracts work out to non-certified Google Photographers.
- Many shady web agencies out there, do your due diligence.
- Can help you with multi-location nationwide projects. They usually have Account managers to help with communication, schedule, and workflow.
- May try to upsell you on their own web services.
Google Trusted Photographer:
- More likely to specialize in their craft (virtual tour photography).
- More likely to invest in higher quality equipment for their craft.
- They are their own brand, so usually put more quality into their work.
- One-man show or smaller team. Can sometimes be a bit harder to communicate with or schedule.
- Quality of work in most cases is better than agencies.
- Nice to support freelancers and local photographers.
- Original Google Photographers (2012-2015) is trained by Google.
Our recommendation is if you have a multi-location nationwide chain. Your best option is Google Trusted Agency. However, if you have less than 25 locations mainly within your state (or province), a Google photographer would be the better choice.
Google Photographers do have a network that helps each other out. Therefore they most likely know many other photographers from other areas, nationally and internationally.
How to Find a Google Photographer in Your Area
- You can always ask us, we’ve worked with many photographers and can provide recommendations.
- Google Search “Google Virtual Tour (City Name)”. Make sure they have a Google Badge.
- Google Street View has a photographers list here
You can find both local and international photographers from all over the world.
Is there a Difference between Google Photographers?
Yes, definitely. We would classify them into these categories:
- Customer Service
- Camera Equipment
- Quality of Work
So what do you look for when finding a Google Photographer?
An experienced Google Photographer understands how to deliver a quality product. From the beginning to the end of the Google Service they will guide you accordingly. This is because they’ve been asked every question and encountered many obstacles. Hopefully, this transfers as well to quality and customer service. Experience is important, but it’s only just the 1st step.
Google Street View Portfolio:
Do not look at just the quantity of tours a photographer has taken, look at the quality of work. We explain more about what to look for in quality down below.
Commercial Portfolio: In many cases, Google Street View Trusted packages are paired with, or packaged in with still images. This is definitely something worth upgrading to if your Google Business page is lacking in images. Having strong imagery is really important for your profiles. This can also be helpful if you just need some additional images for your website or social media. Because a photographer is good with virtual tours, does not mean they have the same skill set, for product photography, interior photography, portraits, etc… Therefore, ask for the portfolio to see their real photography skill set.
Professionalism and Service:
This is often overlooked. Trust us, you want to work with someone that has both traits. AS mentioned, Google Photographers are not Google employees, they are independent contractors. So just like any service, you’ll have the good and bad. The best way is to pay attention to how they communicate back to you. Do they respond quickly, and do they take the extra step to actually help you, rather than just close the deal? In fact, calling or setting up a meeting is the best way to get your answer. How they conduct themselves generally will lead to an understanding of the type of work you will be reciving.
Quality of Work:
There are many technical factors, but to simplify it, we would break it down into these points:
Exposure: To know if a photograph is exposed properly is to look at the lighting of the final image. The environment’s lighting should be even and well lit. Overexposed images are too bright along with the occasional overblown highlight. Underexposed images look a bit dark or gloomy. A big tell is a lot of dark shadows. Another way to check for good exposure is to navigate the 360 tours and look for windows or open doors. Check how they are exposed. Is the inside and outside of the room over or underexposed? A well-exposed image should also have a nice, even accurate color.
Color balance: Do the images on the screen look like they reflect the actual atmosphere of the business location. The lighting and mood are what you should be paying attention to. Are some of the images too warm (Yellow/Orange tint) or are some just too cool (Blueish tint)
Sharpness/Blurry Photos: Pretty self-explanatory, but when you look at a 360 tour, the image all around should be in focus. If you’re viewing it on your mobile phone, make sure you check it out on your desktop to see a larger resolution.
Clean or Messy: Do the previous businesses they photographed actually look like it’s been well set up? It is up to both the business to set up and clean their location, but also it’s the photographers’ job to direct them. The photographer should notice any issues that will make the business look sloppy or unattractive. Clean tours should be free from clutter, the tables/chairs/products nicely aligned, and the floors/windows are tidy.
Navigation: A well navigated requires some pre-planning. Does the tour walkthrough cover all the major points of interest? Or do you end up in multiple dead ends? Some businesses might be complicated, but good photographers will try to find clear navigation so that tours can loop around from beginning to end.
Price: Google Photographers and Agencies are independent. They can set their own price for their services. However, it does not mean you should go for the lowest price. As shown above, there are many factors in terms of the quality of work. Just think about a wedding photographer. There are red flags when a Wedding Photographer charges below industry standards. There is an expected lower quality of work, this is no different with Virtual Tour Photography. So factor in quality, reliability, and service when deciding your final price.
Questions to ask the Google Photographer
- Ask for examples of 360 Tours from similar businesses.
- Ask if they have non-360 photos, a commercial portfolio.
- Ask what you need to do to set up your business location.
- Ask when you can expect to see your 360 Tour on Google Maps.
- Ask what are their payment methods
- Ask when is payment expected? Before/After/Partial?
- Ask if there are any additional costs for the 360 Tour? Re-occurring fees? (The answer is supposed to be No! Google hosts your images for free)
- Ask if it’s actually a Google Certified Photographer coming in to do the photography? If it’s an agency, does that photographer coming in have their own portfolio? (not the agency’s portfolio)
- Ask what else do you need to do to prepare?
A Google 360 Tour is one of the best visual marketing tools out there for local businesses. Unlike Google Ads, there are no reoccurring fees. It also works really well with your Search Engine Optimization campaigns. If you’re not sure, just look at the insights on your Google Business Page. Look at the insights and see how much traffic you are getting. This is a missed opportunity to get exposure to your store.
So how do you get started? Just send us a message!
*We are a marketing agency with an original award-winning Google Photographer on board. If you have any further questions, feel free to shoot us a message and we will happily help you out!