Photo Magic, 3D Photography - Digital Photography School

Photo Magic, 3D Photography

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This will blow your mind. If you have never tried ‘free view’ 3D, then you might find it hard to imagine that you can take 3D photos with any camera and see them on any computer screen without glasses or special technology. I will show you how.

We see the world with two eyes, and that tells us the depth of a scene. Most cameras can only capture a flat plane, destroying any depth the original scene had and robbing it of a great deal of its impact. This technique lets you capture photos of certain scenes that contain the depth of the original, and with a little bit of practice most people can learn to see these photos simply by crossing their eyes.

I’ve written a detailed guide on how to see 3D photos on my blog, and it has already helped thousands of people to learn how to ‘free view’ 3D photography. If you’re not familiar with the technique, go and have a read, then come back, enjoy the photo above in glorious 3D.

Now I bet you want to know how you can make these images yourself!

What I’ll Be Using For The Shot

  • Canon 5D MkIII
  • 24-70mm f2.8 lens

How The Shot Was Taken

Taking a 3D photo is actually really simple, but with some limitations. Most importantly: this technique will not work with a moving subject. You won’t be able to take good photos of moving water, leaves blowing in the wind, people you can’t direct, or anything else which does not stay still for a few seconds. Feel free to give it a go if you think your subject is still enough, but the effect may not work well.

The technique is called the “cha-cha” method because all you do is rock from one side to the other when taking a pair of photos.

Find a subject that you think will look good in 3D. My photo looks interesting because there are rocks and outcrops and overhangs and grass and all kinds of things going on in the depth of the photo which you can’t see in the 2D version. Use a relatively narrow aperture, as out of focus parts of a 3D photo can be distracting rather than attractive. A faster shutter speed also helps to reduce camera shake, since you are hand-holding.

Compose your shot and pick out a feature that’s not too far away from you to be a reference point. This will probably be in the lower third of the photo, near the centre. Now stand with your weight on your right foot and take the first photo. Then, while watching your reference point and trying to keep it in the same place in your viewfinder, put your weight onto your left foot and take the second photo. And you’re done! The magic happens in the processing.

Portrait or landscape?
For free viewing, it’s best to take all of your 3D photos in portrait orientation. This requires you to cross your eyes less and is thus more comfortable. Also, two landscape photos side by side are very wide and will thus make the whole image appear smaller on your monitor. However, if you have a 3D TV or monitor and you are taking 3D photos to display with it, then landscape is the better choice. These displays overlay the two images, so a landscape oriented photo will fill the screen.

Processing the Shot

Now that we have two images, to share and show them as a 3D pair we need to make them one. It’s not as simple however as just sticking them side by side in one file. There are a couple of issues we need to take care of which are unique to 3D photos: Alignment and the 3D window.

Both of these issues can be handled with a nifty piece of retro-looking software called Stereo Photo Maker, and the AutoPano plugin for it. Download them both at the links below, install AutoPano, run Stereo Photo Maker and in its preferences, point to AutoPano and you’re ready to go!

Alignment
Taking 3D photos with the cha-cha method can cause each photo to become slightly misaligned from the other. There is also distortion introduced from pointing the camera at the same target in each photo. Even though this is necessary for the most 3D coverage with your two photos, this keystone distortion needs to be corrected. This is achieved with the AutoPano plugin.

2013-05-28 22_33_50-Left Image(creek110319-133-hdr-3d

3D Window
The edge of the frame of your photo has an apparent position in 3D space: where your monitor is. Things look weird and uncomfortable if parts of your photo appear to be touching this frame, it’s far better to make it look like they are inside it, beyond the monitor. Stereo Photo Maker has a tool to help here as well.

Step by step process

  • Drag both photos onto the StereoPhoto Maker shortcut icon
  • Zoom out a bit with your mouse’s scroll wheel if you need to to make it easier to fuse the pair into 3D with the cross-eye technique
  • Click on the auto align button to use autopano to correct for any distortions
  • Click on the Easy Adjustment button to fix the 3D images position relative to the 3D window (see below for more information)
  • I find adding a border helps, so if you like, in the menu go to View – Border Options
  • Check “Show Border” and adjust the border settings to your liking
  • Save the image by clicking in the menu File – Save Stereo Image

Positioning the image within the 3D window is done with the “Easy Adjustment” button in the top toolbar. This opens the adjustment dialogue box, seen here, and you move the slider above the two overlaid images, increasing or decreasing their separation, thus moving them in or out of the 3D plane. It can be difficult to know exactly how to adjust this but a good rule of thumb is to look at the lower edge, and get features here to overlap. With practice and experimentation you can try different positions for the 3D window, creating cool effects with elements coming through the 3D window. It’s best to avoid anything touching the 3D window however.

2013-05-28 00_54_11-Easy Adjustment

Some More Examples

Now you’ve got your feet wet, here are some more 3D photos I’ve taken over the years to show you. And don’t forget, if you liked this post, then you’re bound to enjoy Photo Magic! The book is packed with cool stuff you can create just like this, fully explained with examples, explanations and variations you can try on the looks described. Check it out here.

Enjoy dancing with your camera! Cha cha!

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Update: here are 9 more Crazy Cross eye 3D Images

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Neil Creek is a professional photographer from Melbourne, Australia. He has been shooting with a DSLR since 2004, and blogging about his experiences since 2006. Neil has authored five ebooks and a video training course, all designed to help others improve their photography. View Neil's folio at his home page. Learn about his publications here.

  • David Senter

    I went to the tutorial on how to see the photos and I actually screamed when I did it right for the first time. I had no idea it was possible to see 3D images without glasses. Now I’ll try taking some! Thanks for the awesome tutorial!

  • David Senter

    Here’s my first attempt: the view out my window. Didn’t turn out great but not horrible either.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidsenter/8915303447/

  • http://digitphotoinfo.com Quarku

    You have a very useful and interesting subject

  • Matt Baxter

    I guess this is Windows only?

  • http://www.jurphoto.com JanRic

    Wow, I was very surprised too… some look really awesome !! I love that road in between the trees.

  • http://neil.creek.name Neil Creek

    @David – Glad you enjoyed the post! Your first photo is very nice! I notice however, you seem to have the left and right images reversed. Try swapping them and see if you find the 3D effect better.

    @Matt – I’m sorry, I’m not familiar with any software that can perform this function on platforms other than windows. You can get the basic effect by simply putting your two photos side by side in an image editor, but you won’t be able to do the various corrections. Can anybody suggest a solution for Matt?

    @JanRic – Thank you :) I’m glad you enjoyed the 3D photos!

  • Karina

    That’s amazing. I love the one with the trees by the road, where you can see which way the branches are going… Next time I’m in downtown Mobile, I’ll try to shoot some of those great oaks, which have always looked so flat in camera.

  • Michelle Porter

    Matt you can petition your mac and run Fusion (or Bootcamp) and then you can run whatever Windows programs you wish, assuming you have enough ram. Fusion is much better because you can seamlessly go from one to the other without closing down either side. :)

  • Lizabeta

    How do you view them?

  • Fran

    Well, it’s official, there’s something wrong with my eyes. Except for the size of the sun in the snow picture, I can’t see a difference in any of the pairs. Of course I never could see through those Sunday Paper 3D cartoons either. :(

  • Memee

    You have to cross your eyes Fran and don’t sit too far away from the photo’s.

  • http://portfolio.swapnilkocheta.com swapnil

    Is is not meant for people with Glasses ( duh, but that’s what I feel), I am unable to see any visible difference, especially no 3D !

  • Memee

    Swapnil, take your glasses off, but watch this first.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBa-bCxsZDk

  • https://www.youtube.com/user/Mropcp Mohamed EnterpriseSouss

    Thanks

  • Gildardo Gonzalez

    Excellent post, it is really interesting to see different ways to appreciate photography. To broaden the subject, I could add that there is some specialized lenses to create these “stereo-graphic” pictures: the Loreo 9005 for example. (http://www.loreo.com/pages/products/loreo_3dlenscap9005.html)

    I used that lens for my master dissertation, in order to acquire frames of an object from two different perspectives and, after some mathematical magic, be able to measure the desired object.

    Another way to create 3D representations is by using a reconstruction software such as 123D Catch from Autodesk (http://www.123dapp.com/catch).

    Anyway, just some more information in case someone is interested!

  • mnstrausbauch

    OK, I must not be cross-eying them. I get a GREAT 3d effect but the distance of the objects is REVERSED! very cool abstract effect

  • Deborah Hughes

    Great how-to! Thanks.

  • BruceLiv

    Neil, I enjoyed your 3D images, especially the snow scene, tree-lined road and the tree bark.I’ve made many 3D images, all portrait, by taking two shots and rotating a tiny bit at the hip. I’ve also made images using Zerene Stacker when I shoot closeups and stack them. For my friends who can’t view them cross-eyed, I mount them for viewing on a stereoscope.
    Thanks for a nice presentation!

  • Timothy

    I’ve done a fair few of these. Have a look here:

    https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.277489702281414.73506.175907095773009&type=3

    Some are formatted for viewing on a 3D TV.

  • Guest

    Try this one

  • subhojit chatterjee

    Awesome post Neil! Got the technique in less than a minute. I am waiting to try this out myself. Thinking of using my 24-85mm Nikkor with my D600. Quick question. The softwares mentioned, are they Mac compatible?

  • H I Choudhury

    I
    have been taking 3D pictures since I read Neil Creek’s blog on the
    subject. Thank you Neil for opening a new world to me. Here are some of
    my work.
    3D Light Painting, taken with a DSLR and 3D Loreo lens:
    https://www.flickr.com/…/81962…/in/set-72157632038885341
    Taken with Fujifilm FinePix REAL 3D W3 :
    https://www.flickr.com/…/13661…/in/set-72157632038885341
    Taken by the Cha Cha method:
    https://www.flickr.com/…/87407…/in/set-72157633499216306

  • Jonathan

    I’ve got the software running on my Mac using wine, but I haven’t actually tried it out yet! Will give it a go soon and if it works I can put together a Mac how to if that’s useful?

    Also, how did you take the aerial photos? Did you just fire off a couple of shots in quick succession using continuous/burst mode while the aircraft was moving along?

  • Jonathan

    I couldn’t get the AutoPano part of the software working on the Mac, but StereoPhoto Maker works under wine – here is a quick shot I took of a canal lock gate. It’s not the best effect as I’ve had to try and get the alignment sorted manually, but it does work. :)

  • Neil Creek

    Sory Jonathan, I’m not a Mac user, so I can’t advice on solutions for you, but you seem to be making progress! Nice shot :) As for the aerial shots, that’s exactly how I did it, except the shots were about a second apart. That’s a big distance between shots, but the subject was a long way away.

  • Neil Creek

    Thanks Subhojit! I’m sorry but I’m not a Mac user, and can’t advise on a solution for you. Jonathan above managed to get Stereo Photo Maker working with Wine.

  • Jonathan

    Ok thanks. If anyone wants to get StereoPhoto Maker running on a mac, the basic process is this:

    - Open up a system console from Applications -> Utilities -> Terminal

    - Install Mac Homebrew by following the instructions here: http://brew.sh – this is a system to install free software easily, often used by Mac developers.

    - Once home-brew is all set up (make sure you’ve run the commands ‘brew doctor’ and ‘brew update’) install wine by running ‘brew install wine’ (no quotes).

    - Now ‘cd’ (change directory) in the terminal to where you downloaded the stphmkre.exe file. For example, if it is in Downloads, then enter ‘cd ~/Downloads’ (~/ is your home directory) and if on your Desktop ‘cd ~/Desktop’

    - Run by entering: ‘wine stphmkre.exe’

    I think that should get it going. As I said, I’ve not managed to get the AutoPlano plugin working (although the graphical standalone version will work).

  • subhojit chatterjee

    No worries Neil. I tried it out on a Windows PC and it worked like I charm. I realized, that keeping the plane the same in both pictures is very crucial. After a few tries I did manage to get the effect and it was then that I realized that having a monopod would help in a great way as, if someone knows how to use a monopod then the cha cha effect can be created without distorting the plane of the image :)
    But it was really nice of you to take the time out to reply. I love your posts. Learnt so many things from them. You are a great teacher!

Some older comments

  • Memee

    June 8, 2013 06:58 pm

    Swapnil, take your glasses off, but watch this first.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBa-bCxsZDk

  • swapnil

    June 7, 2013 04:48 pm

    Is is not meant for people with Glasses ( duh, but that's what I feel), I am unable to see any visible difference, especially no 3D !

  • Memee

    June 5, 2013 05:00 pm

    You have to cross your eyes Fran and don't sit too far away from the photo's.

  • Fran

    June 5, 2013 06:47 am

    Well, it's official, there's something wrong with my eyes. Except for the size of the sun in the snow picture, I can't see a difference in any of the pairs. Of course I never could see through those Sunday Paper 3D cartoons either. :(

  • Lizabeta

    June 5, 2013 04:43 am

    How do you view them?

  • Michelle Porter

    June 5, 2013 04:41 am

    Matt you can petition your mac and run Fusion (or Bootcamp) and then you can run whatever Windows programs you wish, assuming you have enough ram. Fusion is much better because you can seamlessly go from one to the other without closing down either side. :)

  • Karina

    June 5, 2013 01:39 am

    That's amazing. I love the one with the trees by the road, where you can see which way the branches are going... Next time I'm in downtown Mobile, I'll try to shoot some of those great oaks, which have always looked so flat in camera.

  • Neil Creek

    June 4, 2013 03:35 pm

    @David - Glad you enjoyed the post! Your first photo is very nice! I notice however, you seem to have the left and right images reversed. Try swapping them and see if you find the 3D effect better.

    @Matt - I'm sorry, I'm not familiar with any software that can perform this function on platforms other than windows. You can get the basic effect by simply putting your two photos side by side in an image editor, but you won't be able to do the various corrections. Can anybody suggest a solution for Matt?

    @JanRic - Thank you :) I'm glad you enjoyed the 3D photos!

  • JanRic

    June 3, 2013 10:39 pm

    Wow, I was very surprised too... some look really awesome !! I love that road in between the trees.

  • Matt Baxter

    June 3, 2013 07:38 pm

    I guess this is Windows only?

  • Quarku

    June 3, 2013 06:54 am

    You have a very useful and interesting subject

  • David Senter

    June 2, 2013 05:26 am

    Here's my first attempt: the view out my window. Didn't turn out great but not horrible either.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidsenter/8915303447/

  • David Senter

    June 2, 2013 04:55 am

    I went to the tutorial on how to see the photos and I actually screamed when I did it right for the first time. I had no idea it was possible to see 3D images without glasses. Now I'll try taking some! Thanks for the awesome tutorial!

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