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How to Create 3-D Images without a Stereo Camera

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A stereo image requires two different photos of the subject.  Essentially, one photo is taken from the position of the left eye, and the other from the position of the right eye (the distance varies with the size of the subject as detailed below).  When the two images are placed side-by-side and viewed through a pair of stereo-viewing lenses, the images merge and the brain sees them as one 3-dimensional image.  When I was a child I made a viewer using the lenses from a pair of toy binoculars, but simple, inexpensive viewers made for the purpose are available by contacting me--contact Jane Walker, and from other stereo image sites online.


If you have a stereo camera, you probably don't need to read this article!  I don't--I use a Nikon Coolpix 995 digital camera.  These instructions are for users of non-stereo (mono) cameras.  Digital cameras with viewing monitors work well because you can immediately see if you got the images right (with a little practice), and you won't waste money having bad images printed if you have a computer and software for processing them.  However, any camera can probably be used to take the photos.


The subject MUST remain still!  I took a picture of my dog and she shifted her nose just a fraction between shots, so in the stereo image her head pops forward too much and her muzzle looks a little bent!
The camera must only move sideways between shots, there should be no change of tilt in any direction, and it must remain at the same height.  This is made much easier if you use a tripod, though rough ground may cause this to be impractical (when photographing landscapes this is not always vital, but with still-life and close-up images it is).   My husband and I made a simple slider out of scavanged scrap metal and some bolts, washers, and nuts so that I don't have to move the tripod.  Sliders can be purchased from some online 3D vendors, but they are a bit pricy for me.
slider1     slider2     slider3
Click on thumbnails for larger images.
Leave extra space on each side of the subject in the images because moving the camera only sideways will otherwise create a tendency to lose part of the subject if you crop too close in the view-finder.  Also, cropping the sides is usually required when creating the stereo cards.  Because of this I always take horizontal images even if my subject is vertical.
It is best to use as square a composition as possible if you are making Holmes-style cards.  The finished 3D image will look best if the composition is square or nearly so. 
The distance you move the camera between shots will affect how 3 dimensional the finished image is.  I usually take several sets of images if I'm not sure of the best distance.  When photographing small or close-up objects, move the camera only about an inch.  For average subjects (furniture or a shrub, for instance) move the camera about 2.5" to 3".  For modest, close landscapes 6" or so will make them nicely 3D, and for huge distant landscapes several yards between shots may be required to capture them adequately.
Everything in the image should be in focus, so use the greatest depth-of-field your camera can produce, or, if you have sufficient knowledge and control, use whatever depth-of-field will ensure that everything in the image will be in focus.  There are several way to do this, but you will have to look elsewhere for instructions--I had to read my camera's instruction manual to figure out how to do it on my camera, and I have no clue about any other cameras.  Some less expensive cameras have lovely depth-of-field automatically.
I usually take several pairs of photos of my subject, especially if I'm hand-holding the camera.  I take the left photo then the right photo in sequence for each pair.  This way if I flub the camera position once or twice I will usually still get a pair that will work.


I have a digital camera, a computer, Photoshop 7.0, and an Epson 2200 printer.  There are other methods for creating stereocards, and I will try to find them and post the information or links as soon as I can. 
This is my method:  I pop images into Photoshop and check them by placing them side-by-side on the monitor and using a plastic 3D viewer to see if they work well enough to suit me.  To do this part I adjust each image window into a 3" square with the image "zoomed" in or out to fit.  The images may not be very clear, but this is a useful first step to see if the 3D effect is good and the composition satisfactory.
I then size the images to match my card blank (see below), and crop them roughly to fit, leaving extra all around for aligning them in the frame.
I have several different "card" blanks already prepared in Photoshop with a black background and white "frame" as a separate "Layer".  I just make a copy of the blank I want to use and "slide" the images behind the frame--see illustrations:
1. card blank  
2. card blank 2  
3. finished card  
1. Card blank with frame as a "layer".

2. Placing an image behind the frame.

3.  Finished card.

Images ©2000-2009 by Jane Walker.
Some familiarity with Photoshop is needed to make the cards this way.
Printer:  My Epson 2200 is a "semi-professional" quality printer designed for high quality printing.  An "every day" quality printer probably won't be good enough to make satisfactory 3D images.  The dots of ink become visible under the magnification of the viewer and interfere with viewing the image.  However, you can create 4" x 6" "cards" on your computer and then have them printed as photos at a photo lab. 
Printing:  I print my cards at 400 dpi, 3 cards per sheet, on 8.5" x 11" Inkjetart Micro Ceramic Gloss Plus paper.  This is the heaviest glossy photo paper that I have found that is compatible with my printer.  I cannot vouch for its longevity, but it is supposed to be equal to the Epson brand of the same type of paper which is not as heavy as the Inkjetart paper.  I consider this paper just barely heavy enough to use for the cards without adding a backing.  None of the cards I have made so far have bent or creased even when handled by kids (ok, careful kids).

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If you find this information useful, please consider thanking the artist by donating a sum of your own choosing.
$1 to $5 would be fine.  This is not required!

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