5 minute hack: how to take a VR family photo this holiday season

Bring festive cheer to your faraway relatives, in glorious 360...

Family photos are as much a Christmas staple as plum cake, wine and a post Christmas hangover.

This, though, is 2016. A simple snap just won’t cut it. Especially when the distant relatives can barely fit in the frame.

What’s the answer? A 360-degree, VR panorama, of course.

No more shuffling everyone into the living room for an awkward pose: stride into the centre, spin around and - voila - you’ve got yourself an immersive picture to make Auntie Jenny’s Christmas Day.

1. Download Cardboard Camera

It all begins with Cardboard Camera. Available on Android and iOS, it’s Google’s answer to VR panoramas - and it works almost exactly as you’d expect. Activate the camera, pan around the room, twiddle your thumbs as it stitches and there you go.

What makes it different? Share your pretty pano with someone who has a Cardboard viewer and they’ll be able to look around the photo as if they’re standing in the room with you. Almost.

It’s not a full photo sphere, so there will be bands at the top and bottom - but the photo will have depth, so that candle will look closer to them than the tree in the corner, just as in real life.

2. Prep the subjects

Of course, the last thing you want is a jumble of fractured faces cluttering up your clever capture - and the smart thing to do is think about how someone will view the photo.

If you don’t want half of your photo to be full of wall, your best bet is to take it from the centre of the room. If you’ve got someone to operate the camera - rather than a time-lapse turner - put them in the middle and position your models around them.

A bit like the mannequin challenge, you can have some fun with the depth element of VR. And if you're standing and everyone else is sitting, make sure you stay low to avoid getting a row of heads at the bottom of your photo. 

The most important thing of all? They need to stand really, really still. Once Cardboard Camera has captured your festive snap, it’ll do a bit of stitching and, although it's relatively reliable, you don’t want jumpy, garbled features scaring your grandma.

4. Sharing is caring

Once Google’s done stitching and tweaking, your Christmas pic is ready to go.

To enjoy it, all you need is the separate Cardboard app (for iOS and Android) and a Cardboard Viewer. You can buy an official one, or use some present packaging to make your own.

Then, it’s as simple as slotting your smartphone in and absorbing the Yuletide immersion. Get faraway friends and family to do the same and they’ll be able to soak up the festive joy before the gin puts everyone to sleep.