We connected with Clay Morehead, a panorama photographer who has been creating immersive content for over 14 years. He has experience with a variety of THETA models and has been recently testing out our newest mode, RICOH THETA X. Check out our Q&A below to learn more about Clay and how he uses 360-degree content for his work.

Panorama Shooting

Thanks for taking the time to speak with us! Can you tell a bit about yourself ?

I’m an Industrial Designer and Panoramic Photographer living in Canada near Niagara Falls. I shoot 360 content mostly for fun and also work designing 360 camera accessories and jewelry for my 360 Niagara Shapeways shop.

Clay and his THETAs

Wow, you have many careers! How did you get started with 360 cameras and incorporate them within your profession?

I first got into 360 with CG panoramas created with 3D Studio at the turn of the century. I was doing corporate presentations for architects, civil engineers and mining companies – things like: sports complexes, ski hills, golf courses, cement plants and nickel mines.

This got me interested in the photography side of things and I started shooting 360 a few years later. My first decent 360 x 180 panorama was shot around 2005.

THETA accessories he made by himself

What kind of devices do you use for shooting panorama?

I’d been shooting with a DSLR for many years. I started with the Theta S, the V and now the X and Z1. I also have an Iqui just for fun.

About THETA Z1

We are glad you have used many kinds of THETA models ! What do you like about the THETA Z1 compared to DSLR, and how do you differentiate both types of cameras?

Certain dynamic situations such as crowds, tight spaces, sporting events, or museums need a one shot solution. Although these scenes can be shot with a DSLR, it’s more difficult than shooting with THETA. The THETA Z1 is almost equivalent to the crop sensor Nikon with 8mm lens I’d been shooting with. This model is perfect for low cost, quick projects; however, for low light scenes, I use a DSLR and longer lenses on a robotic head.

Shot by THETA Z1

Shooting in low light scenes is the advantage of THETA Z1 having 1 inch sensor. What kind of scenes do you like to shoot with THETA Z1?

I shoot THETA Z1 with crowds, tattoo parlors, parties, museums, street scenes, coffee shops, etc. I’m really interested in environmental portraits and have a few private projects in the works. For nighttime shooting, I’m currently very interested in using the DFR plugin and noise stacking with RAW+ to capture dark scenes.

THETA Z1 and Dual Fisheye Plugin

The below panorama was shot by a burst of 9 with the DFE Plugin for THETA Z1 and noise stacked in RAW+.

This was shot at the Louvre in Paris in 2019. My wife and I traveled from Paris down to Marseilles for our wedding anniversary. Yuqing Guo had just published his tips on noise stacking in RAW+ and I wanted to give it a try.

Shot by THETA / Dual Fisheye Plugin

For detail, please refer Clay’s tutorial video as below;
1: Sharpening Z1 DNG in Lightroom
2: Noise and sharpning Z1 DNG
3: Editing Z1 HDR in Lightroom

A lot of THETA Z1 users use Dual Fisheye Plugin for better image quality. There are 2 types of plugin on the THETA plug store for similar names. Which do you use, Dual Fisheye Plugin or Dual Fisheye RAW Plugin?

I only use the Dual Fisheye RAW plugin because it’s so fast. I mostly shoot brackets and burst so I have some flexibility in editing. I do not use the app because I am quite used to controlling the DFR Plugin from the camera. I’ve made a cage with prominent buttons for shooting when it’s dark or cold.

THETA Z1 Moments

Shot by THETA Z1

This picture is so unique! Can you share a bit about it with us?

During the worst part of the pandemic, we would visit a friend every week in the park down by the harbor in Port Colborne where we live. Our friend makes these “Covid Sticks” with a place to put your coffee cup, credit card and receipt. They love him at the drive-throughs.
I put a 1/4-20 threaded bolt through the handle and attached my THETA Z1 to it. Then I put a bottle of Baileys in the holder and took the shot using self timer mode. Probably ISO priority and minus 1.5 EV.

Shot by THETA Z1

Wow! Can you share a bit about this photo as well?

I believe I shot this photo with shutter priority with minus 1.5 EV. This is how I usually shoot in daylight if there are some clouds in the sky so I don’t blow out highlights. I was shooting directly into the sun and expected a bit of flare and a hotspot. I didn’t edit the highlights too much and brought up the shadows, clarity, and saturation in Lightroom.
I used a 9′ Telesin stick to get close to the captain, and my wife was firing the shutter from her cell phone. I needed both hands for the stick.

Clay’s THETA Z1

Editing Tips for THETA Z1

Can you share your top editing tips for the THETA Z1?

There are two things I’d like to stress: the new masking feature in Lightroom, and how Lightroom, by default, over sharpens your DNG and actually adds noise. Always add some noise reduction, then crank up masking in the sharpening settings. I look at some of my earlier work, including the Bluenose shot, and realize I hadn’t discovered this earlier.

Comparison between Z1 DNG no edits and Edited

Virtual tour: Teliportme.com


We know that you’ve been testing out the new THETA X alongside the THETA Z1. What do you like best about the THETA X?

Its ease of use, no question. I love the touch screen and the fact I don’t need my phone. When you do want to connect to your phone, it’s so much more stable.

Clay and his THETA X

Some users are wondering whether to buy THETA Z1 or THETA X. Who do you recommend Z1 to, and who the X?

I recommend the THETA Z1 for critical work and high contrast scenes where you need RAW HDR for window pulls or CG HDRI. For THETA X, I recommend it for real estate as well as for travel. The X would also be great for Matterport and streetview if the 8K video is implemented.

Shot by THETA X

Thank you so much for sharing your experience with THETA as well as your tips for shooting 360-degree content.

Follow Ricoh Theta Z1 User Group on Facebook,  to see more of Z1 Tips. You can also check out our recent webinar for shooting with the THETA X and THETA Z1 featuring Clay and other 360-degree experts in the industry.

HP: Clay Morehead

Accessories Clay made and how he uses them: