Stereoscopic 3D photography – how to make a 3D picture

Stereoscopic pictures are not new. People have using 3D photography to create 3D images for as long as cameras have been around (have a look at the history of photography and digital photography here).

Luckily, digital cameras have made 3D photography a far easier thing to do. No more messing about with chemicals and papers, only to find out your start image wasn't quite right.

With digital photography you can snap away 'til your heart's content to make sure you get the start images you need. It's a good idea to take a selection of digital photographs of your chosen subject, and separate the wheat from the chaff later on.

On these pages you will find information on how stereoscopic 3D photography works, tips and tricks to show you how to view 3D photographs, and, on this page, how to make your own stereoscopic 3D photographs!

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In the beginning

Before you begin stereoscopic 3D photography, you must first choose your subject. There are two ways to achieve this effect, and it will affect your choice of subject.

First, if you have only one digital camera, then you will only be able to take stereoscopic 3D photography will be limited to stationary objects. This means landscapes, architecture, scenery - possibly a person if they can sit motionless for a second or two!

It's worth adding here that this technique works really well for scenery and landscapes. Stunning views are often a disappointment once they're printed out. This is because you loose the 3D effect. Stereoscopic 3D photography can bring it back to life!

Second choice - if you have two digital cameras, and are able to fire them together, you could take 3D photographs of pretty much anything you like.

Most people will only have the one digital camera, and it's tricky to get two cameras to fire at the same time. So, here we'll concentrate on people who have just the one digital camera.

Take aim

To start with, a really brief explanation of what you need to do in order to make a 3D stereoscopic digital photograph.

Your aim is to take two photographs of the same scene - one "through" the left eye, and one "through" the right eye. If you haven't yet read how this effect works and want to know more, click to go to an explanation of how stereoscopic 3D photography works.

So, select your scene. Frame it up. Get ready to take the photograph.

STOP! Before you do, read through the tips and tricks below to help you get it right.

Useful tips

Stereoscopic 3D photography tip #1

On your camera, look for manual settings. There are three things you are looking to control; shutter speed, aperture (measured in "f" numbers) and white balance. It doesn't really matter what settings you use, just keep them the same for both the photographs you are about to take.

NB: many compact cameras will not allow you to set these manually. Don't worry - any changes the camera automatically makes will most likely be slight anyway.

Stereoscopic 3D photography tip #2

Frame your scene carefully. Look for reference points in it that you can use for both photographs.

An easy way to do this is to pick out a fixed object, like a tree or part of a building. Make sure this object is at the centre of all the photographs you take.

Stereoscopic 3D photography tip #3

Take a few photos at varying levels of separation. With digital photography you can snap away and not have to worry about developing costs. Do so, and choose the best two photos when you get back home.

The amount of separation needed varies with distance from your subject. The farther away the subject, the more separation is needed.

If you are photographing scenery that is way in the distance you will need a lot of separation. Take one photo, them move about 10 yards to the right and take another. Do that again until you have four or five photos.

If your subject is a little more close up - perhaps a building that's maybe 100 yards away - then take the photos with about a 2 yard gap between them.

NB: the photographs used for the Machu Picchu "trainer" image were taken about 20 yards apart.

Stereoscopic 3D photography tip #4

Always take photos in the same order - from left to right. Always. It's easier to remember left to right than right to left, because that's the way we read. After all, you're reading this from left to right, aren't you?

This is important, because when you get back home and begin to work on producing your stereoscopic 3D picture, you will need to know which photos were taken on the left, and which ones on the right.

Get snapping!

With these tips in mind, start snapping! Remember that this is digital photography, so take as many photos as you think you'll need. You can always delete the trash later on.

Once you have your photos, you need to move onto the production phase.

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