My First Google Tour
I started photographing my very first Google virtual tour, seven years ago, in January of 2013 at Totalvision Eyecare Center in Manchester, CT The temperature outside was one degree and I was required to prop the door open as I took the first three images. I could barely feel my fingers as I clicked away, not really knowing what I was doing. I produced a new virtual tour of the renovated Totalvision in April 2019, which got me thinking about how I got started with Google.

In 2012, out of the blue, I got a phone call from a Google employee, who was recruiting photographers for their new “Google Business Photos” program. I’m smart enough to understand when opportunity is knocking. Google is an amazing brand and I wanted to be associated with Google.

I agreed to purchase the required photographic equipment and take the training to become certified. It was quite an experience. The entire system reminded me of a passage from Pulitzer Prize winning author Herman Wouk in The Caine Mutiny. The original Google Business Photos program was truly “a master plan designed by geniuses for execution by idiots. All the shortcuts and economies and common-sense changes that your native intelligence suggests to you are mistakes. Learn to quash them. Constantly ask yourself, "How would I do this if I were a fool?" Throttle down your mind to a crawl. Then you will never go wrong.”  Google has improved the program dramatically since 2013, including allowing photographers to stitch their own panoramas and edit their own images in Photoshop.

After studying the course materials, I was required to pass a test and produce ten Google virtual tours. The most difficult part was each virtual tour had to undergo a quality control critique by Google technicians in India. Many times I was required to go back and take more panoramas of the same location and spend hours on the publishing software. The Google pipeline that stitched and published the panoramas was very buggy and often was completely shut down. Eventually I passed and became a TIP (Trusted Independent Photographer) and I was able to publish Google Virtual Tours without the quality control critique. What a relief.

The original program had rules against soliciting business outside your geographic area and a monthly quota for published virtual tours of businesses. There was constant pressure to produce tours or get kicked out of the program. Also, improving image quality by using Adobe Photoshop was forbidden.
The next year there was a re-branding from Google Business Photos to Google Business View and all website logos and printed brochures had to be brought into compliance. Then the “see inside” button on Google business pages was eliminated.  A few years after that, the Google desktop stitching and publishing software was phased out and all the strict rules were eliminated. Anyone could now take a panorama photograph with their cell phone and publish it to a Google business page. Every Google Trusted Photographer had to purchase their own stitching software and either use a third-party publishing software or publish their panoramas on the Google Street View cellphone app. Any technical support to Trusted Photographers from Google was eliminated. Wow what a ride! The elimination of all rules was freeing and challenging at the same time.

Producing the new tour of the renovated Toatalvision of Manchester was a pleasure this time. The weather was warm, and I have gotten very good at the new software. I can use Photoshop to improve the image quality, and I now know what I’m doing. You can take the new virtual tour here: By the way, I highly recommend Dr. Alpert, who is an amazing and caring eye doctor.  Dr. Alpert has the latest technology to fit you with glasses or contacts and to evaluate and treat eye problems. Don't put off your eye exam!

Tim Becker

Creative Images Photography

901 Main St.

Manchester, CT 06040




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