So Kevin, Where Have You Been Then?

You may well have noticed that I’ve not been about for a while.

“Why’s that then?” You ask

Well, to cut a long story very short, I’ve separated from my wife, moved house twice, my Dad died and my pancreas packed up! Quite an uneventful year really, I don’t think! It all conspired to take me out of circulation for a while.

However, now I’m back…a lean, mean fighting machine :) Well, 2 out 3 ain’t bad. My pancreas giving in meant I had to go onto insulin which has caused me to put some weight on. I’m sure I’ll shift it when I’m chasing round taking photos.

Google, unfortunately, weren’t sympathetic to my problems so I’ve withdrawn from the Business View programme and I’m now producing stand-alone virtual tours. Because I no longer have to work within the constraints of the Google software, I can be far more creative with the tours and include hot spots, menus, photo galleries and so on. Take a look here for an example.

So, there you have it. I’m back up and running and hungry for work.


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Google lets users create their own Street View

Google has unveiled a new tool that allows users to create a Street View – a 360 degree virtual tour – of any place and share it using Google Maps. You can read all about it on the BBC News Technology site

Google lets users create own Street View

“But wait!” I hear you say “doesn’t this mean anybody and everybody can do what you’re doing with Google Business Photos?” No, not at all. I think Photosheres is a brilliant idea and will increase demand for my work. “So, why’s that then?” Well, let’s compare Google Business Photos Virtual Tour (GBP) against Photospheres (PS) :-

  1. GBP is a professional high end product. PS is a product designed for anyone to use.
  2. GBP appears as a “see inside” in Google Search. PS doesn’t.
  3. GBP appears as a “see inside” in Google Local. PS only appears as a normal image.
  4. You can navigate to a GBP tour directly from Google Streetview. You cannot navigate to PS from Streetview.
  5. GBP has high quality standards in terms of stitching, image quality, navigation, etc. which gives the end user a guarantee of an enhanced experience. PS is just a basic tool and has none of GBP’s quality guarantees.
  6. GBP is a Google product. PS is a Google product. Why on earth would Google create a product that could kill the business for another of its products? Are they insane?
  7. GBP is designed specifically for businesses. PS is designed for users to capture places of interest, nature, historical places, etc.

So, there you have it…I think Photospheres are going to give people a taste of just what can be achieved and may well encourage them to want more.

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Show and Tell for your Business with Google Business Photos Virtual Tours

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Just lately, more and more businesses have discovered the benefits of showcasing their location with a Google Business Photos virtual tour. Mike Ball, Web Manager, PMT Online says

This has to be the simplest, most cost effective marketing tool available to traditional stores online to advertise their business and improve both their online presence and footfall into the shops.

Adding a virtual tour is the best way to allow prospective customers to experience your business online. Kevin Harper of Westmids Business Photos, the Google Trusted Photographer for Solihull, Birmingham and the West Midlands, is giving you the opportunity to have a Google virtual tour of your location.

Offering a full panoramic view, with the camera capturing all angles of the location and giving a walk through of your premises, a Google Business Photos virtual tour is the next best thing to actually being there. Using navigational tools, the viewer can look up, down, left, right, or wherever they want to as they virtually travel in and around the business. The technology that provides this is the same used for Google “street view” and is available on Google Maps.

Some of the Advantages of a Virtual Tour

It goes without saying that a Google virtual tour offers the advantage of viewer engagement and interaction but there are a number of other advantages as well:-

Because the tour offers a view of the facility from all angles, it offers more information in a shorter period of time. Chances are if the viewer is looking for something specific, they will be able to find it within the tour.

  1. The tour generates familiarity, so the customer will be more likely to patronise the establishment once having viewed it.
  2. Most viewers perceive a virtual tour as more accurate, and less out of date, than standard pictures.
  3. Owners put a lot of thought into creating a mood for their visitors. The Google virtual tour captures not only the function of the establishment but also the atmosphere and essence.

Who Needs a Google Virtual Tour?

Almost any business can benefit from a Google virtual tour. Businesses that welcome in customers for longer visits and personal experiences have the most to gain by showcasing their office, facility, or store. Below is a list of our top 10 businesses that need the Google virtual tour. If you are on the list, consider the possibilities for your business!

1. Retail Businesses

2. Restaurants & Pubs

3. Conference Venues

4. Hotels and Guest Houses

5. Tourist Spots

6. Speciality Retail Shops

7. Gyms

8. Salons and spas

9. Car Showrooms

10. Business Showrooms

Google Virtual Tour Photography Service

As part of the service, Kevin will embed the Google virtual tour into your Google Maps/Plus listing. As well as being viewable on a PC, the listing is mobile friendly on Android and Apple devices. He can also embed the Google 360 virtual tour into your website.

As well as the virtual tour, you will gain up to 15 feature shots that are copyright free so you can use them for your printed / online marketing material or however else you choose. For the tour itself, Kevin will work with you to find the optimal time to do the photo shoot and then he will work with you to design a tour that will showcase your business in the most appealing light.

If you are ready for your business to not only be found, but be experienced online with a Google Business Photos virtual tour, contact Kevin today!

Read more on our website

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Google Business Photos – a low cost marketing “must have” for Business Owners

Google Business Photos is the easiest way to make sure your business is found by prospective customers.



Not that long ago, one of the first priorities of setting up a business was to get a listing in the Yellow Pages.  If you could afford it and if you really wanted to make sure that your business was found, you would take out an advert with them so prospective clients couldn’t miss you.

Nowadays, directories like Yellow Pages and Thompsons go straight into the recycling bin! When was the last time you picked up a paper directory? Has anyone under 40 asked you lately, where you put the Yellow Pages?

Today, you do a search on your computer or Smart Phone and nearly 70% of the time, apparently, you use Google.  Even if you use Bing or, you’re likely to find the web page of the business you’re looking for with an embedded Google Map.  So, my advice for Business owners is:-

  1. Make sure you use your FREE Google Places Page and take ownership of it.
  2. Make sure that your Google Places Page has a Google Business Photo Tour (  produced for it.

And this is why…You can’t afford to miss an opportunity to capture 70% of the “virtual traffic” walking or browsing through your shop. It’s why you put a nice sign with a catchy logo on your shop front, or your best merchandise in your window or your menu on the door. That’s how you get the attention of people on the street.

So how do you do the same thing virtually?  See steps 1 and 2 above of course.

Your Google Places Page is FREE. Why not use it? Before you spend hundred or even thousands of pounds for someone to “guarantee” a Page 1 Google Search result, use what’s already there.  You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to assume that if Google is giving you FREE tools to use, it must be something that will help your search results.

Google is offering Google Business Photos through a network of Independent Google trained and Google Certified Professional Photographers such as myself Westmids Business Photos. I am the Trusted Photographer for Solihull, Birmingham and the West Midlands. You can find one in your area at . It’s a way to grab potential customers off the “virtual street”, pull them into your store and say, with pride, “Look at what a brilliant business I’ve got.”

Since I’ve been producing their Business Photos Tours, I’ve had people ask me, “Why would people want to “See Inside” my restaurant or business? Isn’t it about what I sell or serve?”  Yes, it is, but I can get a very good idea about your aesthetics and image by seeing the care you put into your establishment. Your business is about satisfying expectations.

Google’s business is the same. They hope that when you search Google, you find what you’re looking for and they provide you with enough quality information to make your choice easy and satisfying. That’s why they don’t charge Business owners for their Place Page and why they train Photographers, give them the online tools and make sure that they own the proper equipment.  It’s so that when you hire a Google Trusted Business Photographer to produce your tour, they can guarantee that you’ll get what you’re expecting, no surprises.

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I’m the Google Trusted Photographer for Solihull, Birmingham and the West Midlands. “What is that?” I hear you ask


That’s a really good question.  According to Google:-

“Trusted Photographers are trained to take high-quality photos of building interiors, dealing with common challenges such as low lighting and tight spaces. The photographers are also certified to take pictures using fisheye lenses and rotating camera turrets (mounted on tripods) that, once uploaded to Google’s processing pipelines by the photographers, will be transformed into 360-degree panoramic imagery and a walkthrough of your business. Once the photographers have uploaded the pictures from their cameras, Google’s processing pipelines use sophisticated image stitching, HDR, image matching and other technologies to produce these panoramic walkthroughs.”

So, what does that mean in practice? In short, as a Google Trusted Photographer, I can bring Google Street View to your business!

As a part of that, Google makes me sell virtual tours and photography, fill out paperwork, have a website and be available a certain number of hours per week.  As a part of the Business Photos Trusted Photographer Program, I’m required to own a specific camera body and lens (which is very expensive!). I have a computer with high speed internet access and of course a gmail or other Google account.  Other Google accounts include: Google Maps, Google+(Google Plus), Google Local, Google Apps, YouTube, Android mobile, Google Calendar, Google Drive(Google Docs), etc.

As part of my certification, I had to shoot and upload interior images of a dry run location.  This location was not published.  Once the dry run photos were approved, I had to do 3 jobs that were heavily moderated by a Google Business Maps employee.  Once these walk throughs were approved, I received a Google Business Photos Trusted Photographer badge.

When I had taken a total of 10 moderated, 360 Panoramic virtual tours of businesses, I become a preferred photographer meaning I can post the panoramic images of your business quickly and without moderation.

So, what are you waiting for. Contact me now to schedule your photo session with a Google Business Photos Trusted Photographer!

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So…it’s ok to take a photograph from the internet? Wrong!

Recently, I’ve had a number of conversations with people who have had their images used without their permission. It’s happened to me too, so I thought I’d have a look into the whole subject.

Perhaps the best article I found is “10 Bogus Excuses People Use When They Steal a Photograph from the Internet” by Francis Vachon, a Canadian photographer. I’ve linked to the actual article itself, but I’ve paraphrased it here as I do think it makes interesting reading.

1. There was no “copyright” logo or any other watermark on the photo

Would you believe that copyrights exist by default. A photographer does not have to specify either on the photo or indeed the website that the photo is protected by copyright. It just is.

2. The photo is on the internet, therefore it is free to use

An image does not fall into the public domain as if by magic when it’s uploaded. UK copyright laws state “If the author is unknown, the copyright period ends 70 years after the making of the work; or, if during that period the work is communicated to the public, 70 years after that date. If the author of the work is identifiable, copyright in the work expires 70 years after the death of the author.Where the work has more than one author, the copyright expires 70 years after the death of the last survivor of them.” The first line of that statement is all important.

3. I found it on Google Images, therefore it is free to use

Google Images is not a free stock photo agency. Google does not own pictures – it catalogues them.

4. It’s on Facebook, and everything on Facebook is on public domain

Unfortunately, no. Facebook’s terms of service say: “You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook.” Therefore it is not public domain.

5. But I won’t make money off this photo. It’s just for my blog/personal website/my Facebook page

Whether you aim to make money from it or not, it doesn’t change a thing. It is still a copyright violation.

6. The photographer’s logo/name/email address is watermarked on the photo. If he put it there, it’s so he can advertise his business when we share his photo, right?

No… No… No… just think about that one!

7. This photo is not good looking enough or original enough to be protected by the copyright law.

Photograph a white paper sheet on a white table during a snow storm with your iPhone. This photo will be just as protected by copyright law as the last celebrity portrait by David Bailey.

8. I appear in this photo, therefore I can use it

This does seem logical, but no. Legally, the photographer holds the copyright on this photo because (s)he took it.

9. I acknowledged the photographer. It’s good advertising for him

Only the owner of the copyright can decide how the photo will be used.

10. Millions of people are doing it

An invalid argument. Where in law does it state exactly how many people doing something illegal is needed to make that act legal.

BT Tower Birmingham

BT Tower Birmingham
by Kevin Harper

So, there you have it…it’s not ok, it’s actually illegal!

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Something a bit different – photographing a video shoot and a concert

Back in October, my good friends Giocoso Saxophone Quartet asked if there was a photographer available for their gig with Gary Grace the new king of swing at the Dovehouse Theatre in Solihull. I jumped at the chance. Who could resist? There’s always at least 5 of them. They’re gorgeous. They’re always beautifully dressed. And they play a mean sax.

When it came to organise the where and when, it turned out they were recording a video with Gary at the venue in the afternoon before the concert.

“Would you like to come along and take a few shots during the video shoot, Kevin?” They asked.

Of course I would. And I did. I went along on the due day at the appointed time, waited patiently while everyone got set up, taking a few photos naturally, then it all seemed to start. I got loads of shots during the video shoot and some beautiful group shoots. Then, before I knew it, 3 hours had gone by and it was time for the video crew to wrap up.

I shot off and got something to eat, then came back and got ready for the performance to start. The Theatre filled. I spotted my friend Trish from BB Boutique in Solihull – another lovely lady.

I went over to speak to her and her husband. “I’m here on your recommendation” Trish said “I hope they’re going to be good!”. I reassured her as I knew they would be.

All to soon, the performance started and off I went again. Loads of shots in the can. Time for an interval then back to it again. More photos. Then the end. Then an encore – My Way – very apt indeed. Then finally the end.

I stopped. I was exhausted. 6 hours photographing with a 30 minute break. I drove home, went to bed, then started the next day on a mammoth editing session…but that’s another story.

Giocosa Saxophone Quartet

Gary and Giocoso 2

The audience

Gary Grace

All in all, a great day and a great set of photos. The girls and Gary were all really pleased with the end result.

Hi Kevin

First chance I’ve had to say what great pics you took at the Dovehouse Theatre a few weeks ago and thanks for sharing them on Facebook…I’ve managed to put a link back to your page. I was wondering if you could send through a high res version of a few of them please, as I wish to use them for a CD cover. Many thanks….Gary

Gary Grace – the new king of swing

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Google+ Local – A Guide for Small Businesses

Google Places Page Listing


If you want your business to be noticed, it has to be on Google+. Why is that?

  • Google+, the search giant’s social network, is being increasingly integrated with the entire Google ecosystem from search to Maps to YouTube. Engaging with Google+ isn’t just a way to share updates and deals with your customers; it’s also the best way to ensure they find your business in the first place.
  • Getting on Google+ will help Google’s Web crawlers index your site, leading to higher placement during a Web search. It will also ensure that customers get the right information when they search for your business on Google.

Getting started on Google+ can be confusing, especially if you are already juggling a Facebook page, Twitter account and profiles on other social networks.

With this article, I want to help you learn how to make the most of Google+ to promote and grow your business.

What is Google+ Local?

Google+ Business, Google+ Local, Google Places are all platforms launched by Google in the past few years to help customers find Local Businesses. However, the technology giant hasn’t made it easy for business owners to distinguish between each platform.

So, before we get to how to use Google+ for promotion, let’s take a little look at each of them.

Google+ launched in 2011 as a social media platform for individual users, with personal profiles – just like Facebook profiles.

Later, Google launched Google+ Business, allowing businesses and brands to have their own Google+ profile — just like Facebook Pages for businesses. Google+ Business users can share status updates, photos, videos and more, just like business owners can do on their Facebook page.

About the same time, Google launched another service called Google Places, which consists of pages displaying your business’s location, contact information and consumer reviews. If you want your business to be listed in Google’s Web search results and to show up on Google Maps, sign up for Google Places.

And now here’s where it gets complicated.

Google Places still exists in name, but it was integrated with Google+ Business and given a new name – Google+ Local.

You can still sign up for Google Places. Doing so (and verifying that you are actually the business owner) will still allow you to create a basic local listing for your business. When users search for local businesses on Google or Google Maps, they can still navigate to your business’s Places page, which now appears as a basic Google+ page — even if you never signed up for Google+.

But…signing up for Google+ Local  can have big benefits. Doing so will activate social functionality on your business’s profile, allowing you to share updates, deals, photos and videos. It’s also the only way to customize your profile with personal touches, like a custom banner image.

Google recommends that you sign up for Google Places first to create a basic local listing for your business. Once the listing is up, you can easily activate Google+ social features in your account settings.

Why should you care?

Studies have shown that nearly all consumers use the Web to search for local businesses. Overall, 20 percent of Web searches are local and that number jumps to 40 percent for mobile searches according to Google.

If you want your business to be easily found, you have to take action. The more you engage with Google’s Web ecosystem, the more visibility your business will have in two different types of Google searches:-

  • A standard Google Web search will be more likely to position your business close to the top of the search results if you are actively engaged. Google+ Local pages are automatically shown when Google knows a search has local intent.
  • Consumers can also seek out businesses by searching within Google+ itself. A local search on Google’s social network will return only Google+ Local pages, so your page doesn’t have to compete with traditional websites and ads that appear in a regular Web search.

The process Google uses to rank pages in a Web search is complex, changes from time to time and can have a tremendous effect on your ranking. That’s far beyond the scope of this article. However, the more complete and appealing your business’s Google+ page is, the more relevant it will appear to Google, and the higher it will likely rank.

It’s easy to see why it’s so important for small businesses to get on Google+, but what about social engagement?

Sharing updates, photos and videos can also improve your business’s search status. The more information you share, the faster your content is likely to be indexed by Google.

If you’re reluctant to do this, consider that every Internet user with a basic account for Gmail, YouTube or any other Google Web service already has a Google+ page! Even if most people prefer Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, Google’s social network is huge and growing.

As Google+ becomes the de facto home for business on Google, your business’s profile is quickly becoming the landing page that will determine whether a potential customer becomes a real one. If your page is updated frequently with news, deals, appealing photographs and positive reviews, it’s almost guaranteed to drive sales.

And users are much more likely to “follow” (or subscribe to) a frequently updated page, so they will be alerted to your updates every time they visit

Frequent updates will also encourage users to share your content, which could land your latest post on the What’s Hot tab, now accessible from every Google+ profile. If your business is featured in What’s Hot, it could drive more followers and more sales.

Reviews, SEO and more

Here’s a brief — and far from comprehensive — list of other ways to make the most of Google+ Local.

  • Reviews: Google makes it easy for users to find similar businesses nearby, so positive reviews on your Google+ Local page can help your business stand out. The higher customers rate your business, the more clicks your page is likely to receive. You can’t control what every customer thinks, but you can encourage satisfied customers to log on and leave a star rating or review. You can also take the time to leave a polite, professional response to negative reviews.
  • Keywords: Keywords are the bread and butter of search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. Make sure to include as many relevant search terms in your listing description as possible to help customers find you.
  • Events: Dedicated customers want to know when you’re holding a product launch party, fundraiser or even a customer-appreciation day. Use your Google+ page to invite them and raise awareness about your brand’s next big thing.
  • Video: Internet users love to view and share video clips. Now that YouTube is directly integrated with Google+, short videos about products, services or deals can be automatically cross-posted — and they can go a long way in driving customer engagement.

..and this is just scraping the surface. Go on, take a look if you haven’t done so already!

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BB Boutique Solihull – Google Business Photos Virtual Tour

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BB Boutique is a family run business, selling children’s wear, care and gifts for 0-6 year olds. We work with British brands and local designers to give you something different from the big chain stores, while supporting our local economy. Please take a look around our website to see all of the lovely things we have on offer. We look forward to seeing you soon!

BB Boutique Solihull

I thoroughly enjoyed working on this tour and carrying out the photography.

Trish the owner said Wow! Thanks so much!! on Twitter and It’s great!! Thank you! on Facebook














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Google Business Photos – Google Maps – Google 360 Virtual Tours for Small Businesses

This is an anglicised (and slightly modified) version of an exceedingly good article about Google Business Photos virtual tours, originally written by  on 23rd July 2013

Whartons of Shirley

Whartons of Shirley

Small businesses often know how to get more business from other people in their town, but expanding on that business is equality important and has previously been costly using traditional advertising. Now with online directories such as Google Local, shops, hotels, restaurants and many more small business can have mobile-friendly listings that may have photos, reviews and key information for no cost show up at top of Google. Today they can just speak into their phone and say “Coffee Shop near me” and find a listing of shops near them with reviews, information and pictures to help them decide if they should spend money there or move on to the next. Just imagine the economic impact we can gain with that facility. Now imagine if a few of the businesses allow visitors to take a full 360-degree walking tour through their restaurant or store directly from the visitor’s smart phone or tablet. The entire town will benefit.

This is where Google Business Photos enters the scene. It is essentially Google Street View literally carried right through the front door of the business and inside. Produced by a Google Trusted Photographer, businesses will have a full 360 by 360 virtual tour that will walk the user all the way through the salon, gym, restaurant (or most any other type of business) in exactly the same way that Google Street view does right now. The virtual tour will be added to the business’s Google Plus Local Page on Google Maps. The photographer also produces still images of the interior, and such details as menus and methods of payment, all of which are available for posting to the business’s website.

Amazingly, you can this tour on your website as well as all the still photos that are required with no added licence fee or other costs! The photos alone are almost the investment.

What the business gets for the price:

  •  The full Virtual Tour on the Google Maps listing that will be visible on a Google search on the web. It then shows up on the mobile Google Map for Android and iOS (Apple). This means it is mobile friendly straight out of the box.
  • You get the ability to embed the tour on your website at no charge and no hosting fee forever.
  • You get a minimum 10 full resolution resolutions still photos that are shot as part of the virtual tour (e.g. store front, over all inside view, menu, and types of payment).

Price ranges from:  £199 plus based on complexity.


What is involved for the Photographer to take these photos and how to get the most out of the shoot:

  • The photographer will schedule a time that is not disruptive to your business and when few people are in your store
  • prepare public areas for photography…remember, there are few places to hide in a 360 degree photo!
  • The business owner will help the photographer choose the Point of Interest Photos, such as payment types, menu, awards, sample plate of food, etc. Remember, the business owner owns these photos.
  • The photographer will then shoot the 360 degree photos with a special camera set up – lens, panoramic head and tripod…no cords and will not disturb your store unless absolutely necessary.
  • The photographer will use a still camera to take the Point of Interest Photos
  • The photographer will return to his office, upload the photos and access Google’s servers, producing the amazing 360 degree photos, creating the tour and adding them to Google Maps
  • Google publishes the photos and the owner receives a notice and the still photos via email

More information can be found on my website  

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