Stereo Photography Page

3D without glasses !

Warp right on to one of the following paragraphs:

But you may also state

What is stereo photography ?

Animals or other People

Stereo photography is a method to produce 3dimensional images of real world objects like buildings, animals or other people.


Each of our eyes has a view on the world that slightly differs from the other one's. You can see this by closing your eyes alternatingly. By taking two pictures instead of one, one from a point two and a half inch or 63.5 mm from the other (which happens to be the average distance between the right eye and the left eye of most people I know of or at least that I would be willing to get introduced to) we get a 3dimensional snapshot.

To be most exact, most of the people * I * know have an eye distance of 65mm, because they are all middleeuropeans (germans), and their decimal measuring system along with a distinctive favouring of round numbers make them more wide-sighted.

You already have one in your bathroom

If you are now eager to see such a 3D picture right away, let me tell you you already have one hanging in your home. Just go to your bathroom, look in the mirror and pretend neither you nor your bathroom were actually there (excluded the mirror of course). What you see now is an excellent 3D picture of you (and your bathroom) hanging right over the wash bassin.
If we present each of the differing pictures to it's respective eye we can experience the same 3dimensional sight involving people that aren't actually in our bathroom, most astounding people that actually lived a hundred years ago.

The Beautys of Nature

It may surprise you to hear that the hype of stereo photography was 100 years ago, in the late 19th century. Stereo daguerrotypies were widely spread as soon as 1850, the bulk of which being female nudes and other obscenities (the latter phrase for US americans, not for middleeuropeans, who happen to be more wide-sighted.)

It is simply fascinating to see a naked girl of a bloomig 142 lying right before you just like the photographer saw her while Jesse James lodged in the saloon next door.

Of course taking stereo pictures of buildings and the beautys of nature can be equally rewarding.

How to make your own stereo camera

Just do it

Taking stereo pictures is as easy as described above, provided a few simple rules are obeyed to:

All these "exactly the same"s indicate that it would be best to take stereo images with only one camera. Indeed you can take a stereo picture right away using your everyday camera, provided you have a leveled ground to place it on and something to align to. If, for instance, you are at the Grand Canyon and there's a flat rail, place the camera on the rail, align it with the edge and take a picture. Now move the camera about two and a half inch to the right and watch it making its way down to the ground 500 feet below. If not so, take the second picture.

Eat me ! or was it drink me? can't remember

You have now a 3D picture of the Grand Canyon exactly as thou didst see it. If you wouldst like to have a picture of the grand canyon as Godzilla would see it, shift the camera half a meter instead of 0.0635. This is like you being a good 13 meters tall, or a Grand Canyon in-a-pocket. This does quite interesting effects on inner cities and is called hyperstereo.

More convenient then shoveing your single camera round the room is simply having two identical cheap cameras glued together. Of course you can also mount two less cheap cameras next to each other making use of the tripod connector, but expensive cameras tend to allow various exceptions to the above mentioned rules regarding focal length and exposure, while cheap cameras normally have short exposure time, a wide angle and small aperture, which is all very favourable for our concern.

Especially irritating

When you glue the two cameras together be meticulous about the aforementioned rules. It is especially irritating trying to view stereographs where one camera looked up and the other was slanted down. I'm speaking of angles a tenth of a degree here. Another point is to not block the film loading lids in combining the cameras. You may have to use a distance-holder of some kind. (is this a word in English ?)

When taking pictures with your newly assembled Stere-O-matic Fancyyournamehere(tm) be shure to trigger both cameras simultaneously. Since this will seldomly be achieved, avoid moving motifs. (Is this a word in English or an X11R6 library?)
Cameras that can be electronically synchronized would therefore be best. Nevertheless I took wonderful stereograms using the cheap variant.

I have dozens of stereographs by now but they still look like errative double takings to me

Oops, did I forget to tell you how to view your stereographs ?

You best take your stereographs as diapositives. Stereo viewers for dias are common in trade. Alas, they do come only in half portions. So buy two of these cheap semistereo dia viewers and, once again, glue them together. Regard all those now well known rules about alignment, and take your actual average eye distance as a measure. There you have your excellent Stere-O-matic Fancyyournamehere(tm) stereoviewer.

Collectors items

Of course you can also buy readymade stereo equipment, cameras, viewers and even stereo projectors. My goal was but to give an incentive to those who haven't experimented with stereography yet, but will try it seeing how easy it can be started with. By the way: I just got me a Russian FED stereo camera


Do you like a flea market?
If not so, you may just lack something to go for. Spotting stereo items at a flea market is a real treasure hunt. I myself had much fun with it, until I expended on using online services and such things.

A good thing to buy, especially if you are interested in historical stereographs, would be a viewer for stereo paper prints. As mentioned before, they were widely spread in the 1880s to the 1910s. Their most valuable feature are prismatic lenses that make it possible to view pictures of about 3 1/2 inches in width each. With luck, you can find one at a flea market, they often go with some ancient stereographs mounted on cardbord. In fact, I bought some viewers only to get the photographs - traders seem to fear that noone will buy the viewer without these, and therefore dont sell them separately. Prices, when I bought, were 60-100 DM (40-70 US$).

High time for a subheading

Another item to go for are Viewmaster viewers and picture wheels. You probably had one as a child, a small plastic device to view stereo pictures arranged on paper wheels. At present, only stereo pictures of cartoons, a good example for a paradoxon, are published. But there are picture wheels from the 1950s that show more interesting scenes of real life, even private shots taken with the once sold Viewmaster stereo camera.

Bathroom blackout

A thing you should be careful about are stereo photographs on glass slides. These were taken in the 1910s-20s. The problem with these is that most often the negatives are sold on Flea Markets. Not only are they rather inverted, but more fatal, the left and right pictures are swapped ! Once I had bought some of these (the topmost in the box was a positive, watch out). After discovering the problem I placed them in a row on a strip of black and white roll film in my darkened bathroom (bathrooms are the place for stereo issues) and copied them with a flashlight. After having the film developed I had to cut out each picture and swap left and right. The result were really dull-grey stereographs of the kids of someone (taken a fair while ago, ok).

By the way, you can judge the contents of a glass negative by viewing it with the coated side up and at an angle to the sun. The dark, silverjodide coated parts reflect the light and the transparent don't.

Really in-depth stereo sites:

Stereomaniacs in Germany:

If you enjoyed my binocularities or/and have general 3Drelated or relationless questions, drop me a message. Otherwise, or if you're eager to read more of my concoctions, or if you appreciate an abundance of commata return to the title page.

Number I liked most.

©Dirk Djuga 1996, 1997