The charm of manual 3D photography (without 3D camera). Tutorial  / Capture, Photography, Tutorial, Apps /  The charm of manual 3D photography (without 3D camera). Tutorial

The charm of manual 3D photography (without 3D camera). Tutorial


Many people enjoy the immediacy of a 3D photograph taken with a 3D camera. However, these cameras are quite limiting in the types of photographs you can get

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Did you know that 3D photographs can be taken with any camera or cell phone? And they’re more satisfying than photos taken with a 3D camera or professional but flat photographs.

Let’s be honest, how many times have you stopped to look at a normal photograph for more than 5 seconds lately? Most people browsing social networks barely look at a photo -with stopwatch in hand, for about 2 seconds-, no matter how beautiful and professional it is. Even contest-winning photos often do not capture the user’s attention for more than 5 seconds.

But in 3D photography, in addition to seeing the overall image as a whole, the brain immediately notices details of various elements separately. The brain finds more interesting details in them, and is more attracted to certain proportions that in 2d it would not have seen or given importance.

To take 3D photographs, two views of the same image are captured, one for the left eye and one for the right eye. This is achieved naturally and quickly. You don’t have to have any knowledge of technology. We already did a basic tutorial in the past. But now we are going to make it easier and improve the process and the results.

Traditional method to taking a 3D photo… Notice that the position of the object changes, and the sides cut the frame to different positions.

Start taking all your photos in 3D


Have you seen the animation above? Well, don’t take it literally because you’ll do it better:

If in both the left and right viewpoint photo we point at the same place, we’ll get a more impactful image, more comfortable to look at, and with more depth from both near and far.

Point your camera at something that catches your eye (which doesn’t have to be in the center of the frame): it can be a tree, a person, an object, or whatever. Take the picture, and while still pointing at the same point, move the camera a little to the right: Make sure you see the same image you saw in the first picture: that is, that the subject is in the same place in the frame, and that the sides cut off the same part of the frame.

Remember to take your photos in landscape orientation (horizontally). Every 3D display works in landscape mode, If you take 3D photos vertically, you will waste almost the entire 3D screen when viewing them. If you do them in widescreen format (16:9), even better, since there are no square 3D screens. 
Trust me; you don’t want to watch your 3D photos with black bars on the sides.
This is what our pair of photos looks like displayed succeeding on the camera screen. The sides cut the image at the same position. When taking this pair of photos, we take as a reference the closest corner of the construction.

In the animation above, you can see that the sides are cut at about the same place in both photos, and in the background there is more parallax (eye separation) than close, just the opposite of a 3D camera.

You must always take the left photo first and then the right one to avoid additional work and confusion that would produce annoying images with inverted 3D.
It is much faster to save your photos directly without having to invert them or check if the orientation is correct.

The reference subject we looked at when taking the photo was the closest corner of the house, you can see that that part moves less when alternating between them. That part will appear at the same depth as the glass of our 3D screen, everything that is farther away will be seen inside the screen, and what is closer will be seen outside the 3D screen.

Doing it this way makes it easier to increase the depth of distant objects, and to top it all off, the 3D is more comfortable for the eye. Thanks to this, this method produces better images than a 3D camera.

Remember that where you point will appear at the same height as the surface of the screen, everything further away will be seen inside our 3D screen, and objects closer to that point will appear outside the screen.

Beware of wanting to take too many things out of the screen, as you can ruin the photo. The important thing is to make everything to have volume, without obsessing about whether it is more inside or outside a glass that we are not going to see in 3D mode. And if any object on the sides comes out of the screen, it will create an annoying effect: the violation of the stereoscopic window.
If we have objects close to the edges of our frame, it is better to take the picture “inside the screen” (taking them as a reference subject when pointing the camera). Don’t insist on producing an image that will disturb the eye.
Viewing and retouching the results

And now comes the most exciting part, where you will see and adjust the results. First, we have to open both photos (called stereo pair) to align them and see the results. We can use 3DSteroid (Android) / i3DSteroid (iPhone/iPad) if we do everything directly from the mobile, or Stereo Photo Maker if we edit them on a computer. Obviously, better to do it on a device that has or is connected to a 3D display.

Automatic alignment button in 3DSteroid Pro
In SPM (Stereo Photo Maker) you can either use the Auto button, or open the Adjust menu, or press Alt+A on the keyboard. Whatever is more comfortable for you.

To align our stereo pair, we will simply open the two photos in the application and then hit the Auto Align button, that’s it. We recommend saving the photo in .MPO format.

Resulting 3D photo after automatically aligning them with Stereo Photo Maker (with slight convergence tweaks to avoid the sides sticking out of the screen uncomfortably). Download original MPO file. View with our online viewer.

And then, if it pleases us, you can adjust them a bit to modify the 3D effect. It is as easy as moving the image left or right to modify the convergence (how close or far the objects are from the eyes, or inside-outside the screen). In doing so, you may notice that objects on the sides are also clipped or shifted. This is useful, e.g., to avoid those objects that stick out awkwardly from the screen (I warned you).
The automatic alignment usually adjusts this quite well. After applying it, you can experiment moving the image to one side and then to the other, to see the effect it produces in the final image. You will notice and learn how the effect changes and what things can give problems for future photos.

In 3DSteroid, after the automatic alignment, press the Edit button and then adjust the convergence with the arrows (if you have a 3DLCD device you will see the effect directly). In SPM, simply use the arrow keys.
How to use Stereo Photo Maker with a 3D display (in this case the ProMa King Tablet)

You may have noticed that by quickly switching between the two photos, as we have seen before on the camera screen, a three-dimensional effect is noticeable. If you have a cell phone with the Live Photos function (a short video is recorded every time you take a photo), you can use the video to share your 3D photo as an animated image:

We took the first photo while moving to the right and – while still moving – took the second photo. Doing this way, you will get to take 3D photos in less than a second. And, if your mobile has Live Photos, you can directly share the recorded video of one of the two photos as wigglegram. So you can share it for those who do not have a 3D screen to see it (here we have used the App Lively to share the Live Photo as a looping video).

Tips when capturing

Taking photos that have realistic depth is boring, our eyesight loses depth perception at 10 meters away or even less. If you thought that shooting landscapes with a separation between photos equal to the distance from your eyes would produce a spectacular 3D image, you’re wrong.

Modifying the amount of 3D is similar to when a photographer adjusts the exposure (the amount of light the photo will have, darker or lighter) to suit his creative perspective or to make details more visible. Often, it is necessary to adjust the exposure of an image to correctly perceive details or contrasts. The same goes for 3D, either to improve its perception when viewed on a 3D screen or to adapt your creative vision to what you are interested in highlighting in the image.

It is more important to make everything have a lot of volume than whether objects are seen inside or outside the 3D screen

By varying the amount of distance from the second viewpoint, we can increase or decrease the amount of 3D. Always be aware of which object is closest in the frame, as it is that object that limits the amount of depth you can capture in the rest of the scene.

If there is something very close to the camera, you can’t leave too much horizontal separation between the two points of view, this would make that object appear too close to the eyes. This is the typical mistake many people made when they first bought 3D cameras. They would get too close to the subject and the results were distracting to the eye. Many abandoned 3D for believing that 3D was a fraud. No one taught them that they needed to consider the distance depending on how far apart the lenses are.

We are here to help you. We do not want more people to abandon 3D because manufacturers have not known how to sell the technology and there has been no one to teach them what to do and what not to do when using 3D. Contact us if you have any doubt related to 3D.
We don’t want people to get frustrated or have to make a living using stereoscopic 3D

With 3D photography, the amateur (or expert) photographer is freed from adjusting the depth of field by setting it to the maximum so that all shots are in focus. Cell phones cannot adjust the depth of field, but they usually have the maximum possible – they are already “preset” for 3D photography –.

In 3D photography it is important to let the viewer focus on the different parts of the scene; although – for artistic reasons – you can also make both points of view have the same depth of field by focusing on a certain part of the image, and force the viewer to focus only on that part of the scene.

You can also edit and blur as an afterthought certain parts to hide annoying objects. Maybe something too close, or to cover something that has moved and breaks the coherence of the 3D photo (thus saving 3D photos that would not have looked good).

How to view 3D photos

There are more ways than you think:

  • Your own mobile can become a 3D display: in 2015 Google released specifications of a very cheap 3D viewer for any mobile (less than $10), called Cardboard, (you can even build it yourself).
  • Mobile devices: glasses-free 3D tablets, glasses-free 3D mobiles (much more current than the ones that became famous in 2012). In our store, occasionally, we include new models.
  • DLP projectors: most of the projectors from $600 onwards support 3D (and many people don’t know it), being currently the best way to set up a 3D cinema at home. In our store we have some fairly inexpensive ones.
  • PC screens -with or without glasses-.
  • Anaglyph glasses (a few cents), you can always go to the typical blue and red glasses of the twentieth century to see 3D on any screen. Although not recommended for watching a movie for a long time, to see 3D photos for a few minutes works very well, even on the screen of a cell phone.

With the alignment programs mentioned above, you can create 3D photos in the appropriate format for the screen you want to use:
Cardboard: Full-SBS (.jpg);
3D TV or DLP Projector: MPO;
other devices with 3D display; Full-SBS or MPO,
any 2d display: anaglyph or wigglegram (animation).

Artistic and subjective considerations

3D photography not only shows the beauty of the lines and colors of the image, but also produces a drastically different kind of beauty thanks to the volume of the objects. And it has curious things, like when you zoom it totally changes how you see the image, it’s as if you were physically moving forward in space.

If you see a nice 2d photograph, most people look at it for at most 6 or 7 seconds (and I’m being overly optimistic). In contrast, when you see a good 3d photograph, you can spend more than 10 or 20 seconds looking at the beauty of the shot, looking at many parts of the photo. You notice many details that in 2d would go unnoticed, and you wouldn’t appreciate.

The desire to see the final result outweighs the satisfaction you get from using a 3D camera with a 3D display. This is because the fixed separation of the lenses limits the distance at which you have to photograph, changing the frame you wanted to capture. With a 3D camera, what you want to shoot is rarely what you can shoot with a good amount of volume.

For photography enthusiasts, there is also the issue of not being able to artistically control the results; 3D cameras do not allow any control of the scene, being too automatic a process. By capturing stereoscopic pairs manually, amateur photographers and enthusiasts can resort to the same creative and technical resources that normal photography offers, applying them before making the two captures, just as in 2D photography.

Regarding the process of aligning pairs of images, it may seem tedious the first few times, but it is quite agile and – above all – satisfying as soon as you see the results. You will even enjoy doing some retouching to perfect them even more; like a photographer in the lab lovingly developing his photographic works of art.


Once you have visualized in your head what you want to achieve in terms of capturing depth, your brain gets excited and creates anticipation to see the results, which will culminate in seeing the result. If the result is not what you thought it would be, your brain automatically learns what the mistake was (usually that you have spaced the captures too far apart, or too little). And with that learning, it will be more eager to go back and take more 3D photos with the lesson learned and achieve better results.

In itself, the brain is competing with itself to improve, and the result of that “competition” is increasing and lasting satisfaction in time to get better and better and more impressive results. Obtaining pleasure both when capturing the images and when seeing the results.

All this makes photography recover the charm that was lost when analog photography was abandoned: the expectation of seeing – and improving – the results.


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