Notes on Stereoscopic Photography part 1

Notes on Stereoscopic Photography part 1

Using stereo photography techniques to photograph dioramas and models

Recently I have been experimenting with stereo photography to produce some image cards for inclusion in a new project I am working on. 3D photography or stereoscopic photography is the art of capturing and displaying two slightly offset photographs to create three dimensional images. This article should not be considered a definitive guide in any way but just notes on my use of the technology for this purpose. Initially I set myself two requirements.

1.  Postcard sized stereo images with a small viewer to be included in a box with a printed book that I am working on.

2. An iBook of normal images and text and stereo images viewed on an iPad or iPad mini.

The 3D effect works because of a principle called stereopsis. Each eye is in a different location, and as a result, it sees a slightly different image. The difference between these images is what lets us perceive depth. This effect can be replicated with photography by taking two pictures of the subject that are offset by the same distance as your pupils (about 2.5 inches or 63 mm). The two images are then viewed so that each eye sees only the corresponding picture. Your brain puts the two images together just as it does for normal vision and you perceive a single three dimensional image.

© 2014 Arcimboldi Studios

Viewmaster image © 2014 Arcimboldi Studios

I have always been fascinated by 3D photography, my first exposure was as a child when I was given a Viewmaster 3D viewer. The viewer made from bakelite normally came with a few disks that contained stereoscopic views of exotic places and important events like the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. These items are still available second hand on Ebay and from companies like

I got the idea of using stereo cards within the “guide to the Birds of the British Isles’ project from looking at a book by the French artist Charles Matton he had used some stereo pairs in one of his books. He built ‘Boxes,’ that recreated artist studios and mise-en-scènes, emotive still-frames of inhabited interiors, empty hotel hallways, lonesome ateliers and imaginary boîtes. Poking one’s head inside one of Matton’s enclosures is being Gulliver trespassing into another reality and expecting the room’s lilliputian occupants to return any moment. This publication comes with a plastic viewer which is rested on the page while you look at the images. This sparked of the idea of using a similar technique for my own project.

© 2014 Arcimboldi Studios

Charles Matton image © 2014 Arcimboldi Studios

© 2014 Arcimboldi Studios

Charles Matton image © 2014 Arcimboldi Studios

I wasn’t quite sure where to start with this so I did some research on the internet and came up with a number of companies that provided kit to either photograph or view stereo images.

There were two basic viewing types that interested me the stereo pair and the  anaglyph system. The stereo pair is exactly that two slightly off set images side by side and the Anaglyph are single processed images that are viewed by either red/green or red/cyan glasses.

Anaglyph 3D is the name given to the stereoscopic 3D effect achieved by means of encoding each eye’s image using filters of different (usually chromatically opposite) colors, typically red and cyan. Anaglyph 3D images contain two differently filtered colored images, one for each eye. When viewed through the “color-coded” “anaglyph glasses”, each of the two images reaches one eye, revealing an

© 2014 Arcimboldi Studios

Anaglyph viewer image © 2014 Arcimboldi Studios

integrated stereoscopic image. The visual cortex of the brain fuses this into perception of a three dimensional scene or composition.

I was keen to try to emulate the style of image that the victorians would have used to view far off lands and maybe the occasional ‘saucy’ picture. So although the anaglyph process is interesting I decided to go with the Stereo Pair process.

Firstly I needed either a camera or some sort of lens attachment to produce the two offset images. After some research I purchased a relatively cheap stand alone 3D digital camera and two lens attachments that fit to the filter ring of my Canon 7D’s lens. None of these is a perfect solution and work arounds are needed to get the results I am looking for. The main disadvantages with all three are the minimum focusing restrictions and parallax problems associated with getting close to the subject.

© 2014 Arcimboldi Studios

Fujifilm image © 2014 Arcimboldi Studios

The camera is a fuji Finepix Real 3D W3 This produces 3D images that you can view on the camera screen or export to a 3D TV etc. These I haven’t really tried as I am only interested in stereo pairs. After going through the menu system I realised that I could use a setting that gave me  ‘simultaneous 2 shots with 2-type colour settings’ this setting gives you 2 identical shots with one being colour filtered. I have found no noticeable difference in the 2 shots and have been using this to capture stereo pairs.

This works quite well for daylight shots but is not particularly useful for lowlight or timed exposures.

I have used this camera for some stereo images in a museum and it works quite well if there is enough ambient light, I will find a use for it but other than that its pretty useless for my long exposure diorama photography. The one advantage of this camera is that there are two distinct  images which are rectangular and landscape format these can be imported into an iPad app and made into a pair (more on this in part two) this is not the case with the lens adaptors which captures the stereo pair on one digital frame and are portrait format.

© 2014 Arcimboldi Studios

© 2014 Arcimboldi Studios

This stereo pair is a test shot of a diorama on the work bench taken with the Fuji its pretty sharp and has the full 3d effect when viewed through a 3D stereo pair viewer.

Part two will include information on the stereo lens attachments and viewers.

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One response

  1. Pingback: A guide to the Birds of the British Isles Stereo image « Arcimboldi Studios

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