Through the Viewfinder Photography Technique

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A recent development in the never-ending search by innovative photographers to continually find new ways of practicing their art and add an element of fun to it is the technique of photographing through the viewfinder of another camera. This technique, aptly enough, is called " through the viewfinder photography."

When you aim a camera at a subject, if you put a little distance between you and it, you can see a reflected image on the viewfinder of the camera. A camera lens aimed at the viewfinder can capture this reflection.

The technique involves the use of two cameras. One is usually a S.L.R or D.S.L.R with a macro lens, the other is usually a twin lens reflex camera. It can also be any camera on which the viewfinder is on top of the camera.

This will be the camera that is used to focus on the subject, the S.L.R/D.S.L.R is the one used to focus on the viewfinder and is connected to the twin lens reflex camera via a tube, mostly consisting of a cardboard tube, yes cardboard!

This cardboard tube contraption is used to block out light and reflections. More innovative folk make these "adapters" out of more stable and permanent material such as PVC tubing.

The point is to block all incidental light in order to allow one to clearly focus on the viewfinder's image. The equipment required for this style is a bottom camera, a top camera with a macro lens, and something to connect both. Note: the macro lens is needed because the top camera is used to focus on the viewfinder; a subject that is relatively close to the lens.

The process is followed by pointing the twin lens reflex at the subject, then focusing the S.L.R/D.S.L.R to the viewfinder of the T.L.R and taking the shot. The images taken this way are mirror images, since the images from the T.L.R are laterally reversed.

The images have an old fashion almost antiqued feel and look to them, since the image will show the edges of the viewfinder and will often show vignetting, blurred edges, and some distortion.

If you compare photos from the early days of photography and those images taken with this technique you can see a resemblance in the look and feel in both samples.

These images are usually edited with photo editing software to align the borders and crop unwanted parts as well as to straighten the total image. Some photographers reverse the image so it's no longer a mirror image, others do little if any retouching, preferring to keep the photos as is with any visible flaws.

If you see a photographer practicing this technique, at first it will look odd, since they most likely will appear to be aiming at the floor while holding the camera with one hand and using the other stretched hand to hold the bottom camera.

Not until a closer view will it become apparent that the subject of their interest is not on the floor but in front of them.

The market for these photos is difficult to predict since this is a relatively new technique, but it would be safe to assume that art galleries and photographic publications will be on the list of potential customers.

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A second technique, rather a style, is called "straight photography." Here the objective is to capture images as realistically and as unplanned as possible. This style avoids at all costs the manipulation of the scene or the final image.

Photographers who practice this style are often referred to as purist, a label which most gladly embrace. No filters are used, subjects are not posed, prints and images are not cropped or retouched or edited in any way.

To put it in very simple terms; what the photographers see when they aim through the viewfinder is what they shoot and ends up being what the viewer sees in the final product as if the viewer were standing next to the photographer when the photo was taken.

However, these photographers do emphasize a clear focus, sharp detail, good contrast quality. The images are technically superb, since it's assumed that no corrections will be made after the shutter is depressed other than the removal of dust or scratches, and some photographers don't even do this.

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Sounds like fun and will you try it?

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© 2011 Luis E Gonzalez

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Comments 2 comments

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tim-tim 5 years ago from Normal, Illinois

Very interesting!


Lynn S. Murphy 5 years ago

OOOOOO What an interesting concept. I neeeeeeeed to get a macro lens and this just proves it. Love your innovative hubs.

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