Centering your product for 360 photography can be a tricky endeavor if you don’t have a pre-marked center mark on your table.  The challenge can be exasperated if you need to center a very small item such as a ring, jewelry or a very large item.

Here are three methods you can use to accomplish this task and simplify the process every time you need to do so in the future.

Technique #1 : Finding the Center of Your Table or a Custom Plate

This method is so straightforward that you’ll be surprised you hadn’t thought of it before.

compass drawing a circle

Typically, to draw a circle with a compass, your pencil or pen moves around a stationary pivot point 

In this approach, we apply the same principle used to draw a circle with a drafting compass, but on our tabletop. However, in this scenario, it’s the table that rotates while our marker remains stationary.

You’ll need a method to hold a dry erase marker fixed above your tabletop. While a Sharpie can be used for permanent marking, I recommend a dry erase marker. Gradually draw smaller circles until you precisely pinpoint the exact center

For achieving highly precise center marks in 360° photography, a straightforward method is often best.

If available, utilize a C-stand to and duct tape to securely fasten a marker above the surface you’re working with.

This approach is both simple and effective, focusing on functionality rather than complexity. The key is to ensure that both the marker and the base remain stationary throughout the process.

Typically, the initial circle drawn is adequate for centering objects of medium size, where extreme precision isn’t necessary. However, for more accurate centering, continue the process by slowly rotating your tabletop and incrementally moving the marker inward.

Keep repeating this adjustment until the circle drawn aligns perfectly with the marker’s tip. This technique allows for progressively more precise alignment, suitable for a range of product sizes.

The Spinshot Turntable Control Software, designed specifically to control the movement of the Spinshot turntable.

Utilizing the SpinShot Turntable with its Control Software simplifies centering by enabling computer-controlled adjustments for rotation speed and start/stop, enhancing precision and efficiency.

This method is ideal for photographing small items, providing a solid base for further refinement. I’ve successfully centered a small router bit using this technique.

Centering small items like this can be challenging

Technique # 2 : Using a template for 360 product photography

The second centering technique is particularly effective for items similar in size and shape, like shoes, sunglasses, watches, or wallets.

For durability, materials like plywood, matte board, or acrylic are ideal, but a simple and precise cardboard template works well too. Carefully drawing your lines on the template ensures ease of use and accuracy.

Measuring the diameter of your 360 photography table top

Begin by measuring the tabletop to confirm that the cardboard piece is sufficiently long to cover its width.

My tabletop measures 36 inches, so I’m using a cardboard piece that’s just a bit longer. The template’s shorter side needs to be wide enough for durability, especially considering the size of the central cutout you’ll make.

Mark a center point on your template piece.

After trimming the cardboard to 36 inches, I draw a centerline on it to align with the tabletop’s center.

Make a centerline mark on your template piece using a long straight edge .

I mark the centerline on both sides of the template and then connect these marks using a long straight edge.

Align your table top's center with the center of your template.

I then align the tabletop’s centermark with the template’s centerline.

Trace the outline of your table top to your template piece.

After that, I trace the tabletop’s contour onto the cardboard.

Use scissors to cut out your template carefully.

To cut the traced curved contour, you can use a boxcutter, an X-Acto knife, or simply a pair of scissors.

Next, we’ll layout a square or rectangular cutout in the center of the template.

Locate the center of your template by drawing diagonal lines from opposite corners.

To locate the center of your template, draw diagonal lines from each set of opposite corners. These lines should intersect at a single point in the middle.

Mark out equidistant points from the center of your template.

Start by marking 6-inch points (or your required size) from the center point in both directions.

Use a drafting square to mark out a rectangle

Next, use a carpenter’s square to draw a right angle on each of the four sides of the template.

Complete marking out a rectangle or square on your template, ensuring that all your angles are square

After drawing the vertical lines, connect the dots along both horizontal lines.

Make incremental marks on your template in either metric or standard

Making incremental marks on both sides of the centerline is helpful, as they serve as visual guides when using the template.

Adding increments on your template makes center  products easier

I nearly overlooked adding these marks and began cutting out the rectangle, but fortunately, I hadn’t completed the cut, allowing me to add them in time.

Using a sharp knife is crucial for this step to avoid a sloppy, ragged cut.

Make the final cuttouts on your template with a straight edge and a sharp cox cutter.

Begin with a light pass to keep the blade steady, and then progressively apply more pressure for the subsequent cuts.

The centering template being used to center footwear.

And there you have it – this quick and effective template is ideal for situations where pinpoint centering isn’t critical but you still need your object to rotate smoothly without orbiting on the tabletop.

Technique #3 : Using software to align product images

The final centering method is suitable for objects too large for a template or those not frequently photographed. It’s also useful alongside the previous methods for fine-tuning centering to achieve high precision. This technique is most effective with a camera tethered to a computer, allowing for real-time preview and adjustments.

While it’s possible to do this shooting to a memory card, it’s not recommended due to the lack of immediate feedback.

I usually use Capture One as my tethering software, along with the Turntable Control Software provided with the SpinShot system.

Capture One and TurntableControl software logos

The Turntable Control Software enables precise rotation to any angle, eliminating guesswork.

To center the object, take images at 0º, 90º, 180º, and 270º degrees, and adjust the positioning until the object remains stationary, without moving side to side or back and forth.

A mix of digital and analog tools can be used based on availability. If the tethering software lacks features for adding guides or markers, a simple alternative is to use a piece of tape or a sticky note to achieve similar results.

Image as captured and seen inside the Capture One software.

First, rotate the turntable to 90 degrees and take an image. Position a guide at both the left and right edges of the object. If your software doesn’t allow for guide placement, use a sticky note or a piece of painter’s tape to mark these edges.

Image captured after being rotated 180 degrees

Next, rotate your camera to 270 degrees and take another image. If the object appears to the right of your rightmost guide, shift it to the left by half the distance it extends past the guide.

If the object is to the left of the rightmost guide, adjust it to the right by half the distance it is from that guide.

Return the table to 90 degrees, take a photo, and reposition your guide at the object’s edge. Then, rotate to 270 degrees and repeat the process until the alignment is satisfactory.

Repeat this same procedure for 0 and 180 degrees. To more effectively track the object’s movement, reset (Tare) to 0º while the table is at 90º.

The TurntableControl software and the Tare (0º) botton highlighted

While the object is in this position, press the Tare button.

Now, rotate the table to 90º and repeat the alignment process as described in the previous steps.

Images captured as seen in Capture One

You should observe the object moving side-to-side. Mark and adjust its position as necessary to achieve proper alignment.

Product images taken at 0º 90º 180º and 270º  stacked on top of each other inside of Photoshop.

By opening the final four images and stacking them as layers, each at about 20% opacity, you can verify that the object is nearly perfectly centered.

Hopefully, this method streamlines the centering process for your 360-degree photography, making it quicker, more enjoyable, and easily repeatable.

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