How to create 3D photos

Train your camera to 'use both eyes'.

If you’ve ever spent ages composing a shot of a breathtaking landscape, only to be disappointed at how poorly the photograph represents the majesty of the scene, you’ll understand how marked a difference there is between what the human eye can see and what even the cleverest piece of digital gadgetry can represent.

Our brains use a variety of clues to calculate how close an object is when we view a scene. Perspective is preserved in photography, but depth is not, resulting in photos that look flat.

Because we have two eyes, we see the world from two slightly different viewpoints. Our brain combines the two images to give a perception of depth. In 3D photography, this extra element is put back into the mix, and the result is a true awareness of depth.

In the following workshop, we’ll show you how to create your own 3D images, as well as how to use your digital camera to create genuine ‘jump out of the page’ 3D photos.

The main trick with 3D photography is to take two photographs of the same scene from two viewpoints, one slightly to the right of the other – this is known as a ‘stereo pair’. But just capturing a pair of photos isn’t enough.

The other vital ingredient is a method of viewing the stereo pair so that your left eye sees only the left image and your right eye sees only the right image. There are lots of ways of doing this and the two we’ve chosen here have one very important factor in common – they don’t require expensive hardware or software.

Nevertheless, the results can be very impressive. Stereo photography dates back to the Victorian era but, thanks to digital techniques, is now more accessible than ever.

To prepare our stereo images for ‘free viewing’ we’ve used Corel Photo-Paint X3. This is bundled with CorelDraw X3; earlier versions can be picked up more cheaply. And you’ll be able to achieve the same results with almost any image-editing package.

To generate an anaglyph you’ll need the free Anaglyph Maker.

1. The easiest way to obtain a stereo pair is to take two photos, moving the viewfinder from your left to right eye between exposures. Stand with your feet slightly apart so you don’t wobble. Both photos will have been taken from the same height – provided you haven’t composed them in the LCD.

Step1

Step 1

2. You’ll get far better results using a slide bracket mounted on a tripod, however. This ensures that both shots were taken with the camera facing in exactly the same direction. You can easily make one using two pieces of wood, glued and screwed together as shown above, and a tripod-mounting socket attached to the bottom.

Step2

Step 2

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