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3D Photography - An Introduction

Taken with a single camera of small items.

3D has been around nearly as long as photography, and comes into fashion for a period every now and then, but with 3D TV now starting to become available, and all major movies being filmed in 3D, we may see a more sustained interest this time around.

To get a 3D image you need two images that have been taken from a distance apart, the distance with a mid range lens being around the separation of the human eyes, but in special situations far greater or smaller separation. This separation distance is called the stereo base.
Where you see this symbol or one like it, it shows that the image is 3D and the colour of the lenses in the 3D glasses required to view it. The most common being the one shown above which is red left and cyan right.

There are a number of different ways to implement 3D, the most well known is the two coloured glasses technique, but 3D movies use a different approach and there are a number of others. We have explored all of these in the article 3D Photography Types.

Images can be taken on a single camera using a prism arrangement on the front, but this is limiting, alternatively you can take two images one after the other, having moved the camera slightly. For live action or moving subjects the two photo approach is not viable and you either have to make do with the prism attachments or better use two linked cameras. Both taking images and software that will allow you to make images is covered in the article Taking 3D Images with One Camera,  as well as the more complex live action photography in taking 3D Images with 2 cameras

Working out the distance between the lens positions of the two cameras, known as the stereo base, is looked at in depth in 3D Photography Stereo Base.   This also has a link to a free calculator you can download onto your computer to work it out, plus we have a look up table on a page and a PDF file you can print out.

The easiest way to put the images that you have taken into a 3D image is using special software, much of this is free and we look at the software in the article Software to make 3D Images.

Another form of 3D photography that is not so likely to be used by most photographers is Lenticular Images, but they have the advantage that no special glasses or other devices are needed to see the images. The current article is an introduction explaining what they are and how they are produced, and we are coming back later to look at these in more detail, with perhaps a project or two.

We do have a range of 3D Projects:-

Project - Making 3D Anagraph or Anachrome glasses.   This is the two colour glasses that are often used.

Project - Taking a 3D Garden Shot, is the nearest to a normal 3D photo as you can get, few problems and a good first project.

Project - Taking a 3D Still Life, working close requires more attention to the stereo base, the distance between one photo being taken and the second.

Project - 3D 2 Camera Portraits with Flash, is the most complex, a live action 3D project using two cameras and flash.

Some people like viewers rather than glasses, some want neither viewers or glasses. The two colour glasses won't work for people with colour blindness and as you will discover there is a great deal of choice with new types being developed, including a picture frame that uses a barrier technology.

Amongst the other options is a system called Colourcode, this is a form of Anagraph but using different colours plus some processing of the image. In 3D ColorCode   we are taking a specific look at this, as it is claimed the images can be viewed as ordinary images or 3D images.

Taken with a single camera and sliding mechanism.

Other points

3D can sometimes make situations clearer, for example making information stand out that would not otherwise. In an ideal world all important photos involved in evidence would be available in 3D as well as flat images, but getting 3D right, as you can see above, is more complex than taking two photos with a standard displacement. 3D live action shots require so much equipment and the ability to get two identical quality images at exactly the same time, so this is going to be beyond most. 3D dedicated cameras and prism systems don't have an adjustable stereo base so are limited to point and shoot cameras with minimal zoom and avoiding getting close to anything. There  are probably less than 20 photographers in the UK who would confidently take on a job to handle two linked DSLR cameras in a live action situation with multiple flash units, so if you were to experiment in this area, you would be one of a small band able to handle this, however its not something that there is great demand for at this time, although we expect this demand to grow.

Not everyone is a great fan of 3D, many find the glasses far from ideal, and have been put off by cardboard versions and while quality glasses are available not a lot of people have them. With more films in 3D and 3D TV shortly, eventually there will be a larger demand.

Our 3D articles include:-

3D Photography - An Introduction  (this page)

3D Photography Types

Taking 3D Images with One Camera 

Taking 3D Images with 2 Cameras 

3D Photography Stereo Base

Stereo Base Look Up Table 

Software to Make 3D Images

3D Viewers for Side by Side Images

Lenticular Images

3D Pulfrich Effect  

3D ColorCode  

On equipment items useful in 3D production:-

Cable to Parallel 2 cameras   

Multi Camera Bracket 

Novaflex Castel-Mini

3D Projects:-

Project - Making 3D Anagraph or Anachrome Glasses

Project - Taking a 3D Still Life

Project - Taking a 3D Garden Shot 

Project - 3D 2 Camera Portraits with Flash

Pictures like this of a moving train require the use of 2 cameras
 or a special camera with two lenses.

See Also our 3D Section for more articles and projects on this topic.


By: Keith Park   Section: 3D Section Key:
Page Ref: 3D_intro Topic: 3D  Last Updated: 01/2010

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