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How to Take 3D Pictures: For Anaglyph, Stereoscopic, or Wiggle

Updated on September 28, 2015

3D Pictures are Better Than Memories

Many people are amazed by stereoscopic 3d pictures, but people may not understand how 3d works. 3d pictures and movies are not as complicated as one might think. Simply put, the goal of 3d pictures is to allow you to see two separate images with each eye. 3d pictures are created when both views for each eye converge into one perception in the brain.

Those of us with two eyes see the world around us in stereoscopic 3d. Close one eye to see what monoscopic looks like. It becomes much more difficult to judge distance and 3d shapes. Usually we go to movies and stare at a flat single image for two hours, but now we have the option to see 3d movies with use of polarized glasses. What you probably don't know is that you can take your own 3d pictures with your own digital camera. Just keep in mind that you need two pictures just as you would see in real life. Read more to find out how to take your own 3d pictures.

Stereoscopic Images

Cross your eyes slowly until both images converge into one. Photographer: Darin Flannery
Cross your eyes slowly until both images converge into one. Photographer: Darin Flannery
Desert Biome 3d anaglyph at the zoo in anaglyph 3D. Use red/blue glasses
Desert Biome 3d anaglyph at the zoo in anaglyph 3D. Use red/blue glasses
Another 3D anaglyph from the zoo
Another 3D anaglyph from the zoo

Use Your Own Camera for 3D Photography

With today’s easy to use digital cameras, there is no excuse for not taking 3D pictures. Most people are familiar with three dimensional viewing. If you have two eyes with decent vision, you are already seeing the entire world in three dimensions.

Our two eyes give us sense of depth that we use constantly in everyday activities including driving and catching objects throw toward us. If you don’t believe me, try catching a ball with one eye closed. It becomes a more difficult task.

Many people enjoy the IMAX 3D movies or Viewmasters as a novelty. 3D feature films and Viewmasters were popular in the 1950’s. The recent advances in viewing technology are paving the way for gaining popularity in 3D media. 3D movies, 3D TV, and internet video sites such as YouTube are growing mainstream vehicles of 3D content.

Everyone will soon adopt 3D as a standard just as High Definition has become the new standard. You may thank yourself in the near future for taking a few 3D pictures as future technology may allow easier viewing. Why not throw a few 3D pictures in your scrapbooks. If you have a camera you are ready to get started. Here are the simple directions for taking 3D pictures.

1. Take two pictures of the same scene, one from each eye. In other words, take a picture from your right eye’s perspective, and then take a picture from your left eye’s perspective. A few Android Apps will help you with the process, but any digital camera with a view finder will do.

2. Put your pictures into a format that allows you to view the two images in 3D. Some examples include anaglygh (red/blue glasses), side by side (parallel/cross-eyed technique), or wiggle pictures.

Example of What Anaglyph 3D Looks Like

Anaglyph 3d Pictures

Anaglyphs take two pictures, one from each eye’s perspective, and place one on top of the other in different hues of color. Each image is presented in a red or blue hue, allowing the red and blue glasses to filter the light allowing the red side to see the red image only and the blue side to see the blue image only.

When you look at an anaglyph image without glasses it just looks like a blurry red and blue tinted mess, but with the glasses on you get a purplish colored 3D picture. You can download software for anaglyph pictures for free.

Stereoscopic Side By Side Stereogram

Stereograms are the easiest way to display your 3D images. Much like the popular Magic Eye books, this technique involves focusing on each picture with the corresponding eye. For example, you can place the picture you took from the left eye’s perspective on the left and the right eye’s perspective on the right. Now you gaze beyond your monitor to get each eye to focus on the corresponding image. This is an example of the parallel viewing technique.

In the cross-eyed technique you simply switch the right and left images so that when you “cross your eyes” your left eye looks to the right image and your right eye looks to the left image. Since you switched the images, your mind actually sees it the right way. The above wedding example is a cross-eyed technique. Just begin crossing your eyes until the images lay on top of each other.

Stereogram Example

3D Wiggle Gif Image Pictures

Wiggle pictures are the most fun. They require no special hardware or technique for viewing. These are animated GIF 3D images that quickly alternate between the right and left perspectives of the scene. These are not true 3D, because you are not looking at both perspectives simultaneously. However, they do give a sense of depth anyway. These are fairly easily created in Adobe Image Ready.

Watch the example below to see how a sense of depth is created by the "wiggle" of the perspective. Essentially this is like blinking one eye at a time very quickly, showing you both perspectives in a rapidly alternating pattern.

Wiggle Gif Image Example

5 Tips for taking the best 3-D pictures

  1. Take pictures roughly two inches apart. This will give you the best 3D effect without overdoing it. If you do any less, the effect will be too flat. You may notice things that are closer in your scene pop out more. This is how things appear in reality. Use shorter distances for closer scenes and wider distances for more distant scenes.
  2. Look for an object in one of the corners to appear in the same corner for both pictures. This gives you a reference point for both pictures.
  3. Be careful not to rotate the camera between taking pictures. Just as your two eyeballs do not rotate, your pictures should be stable. Imagine having a ruler across the bridge of your nose and sliding the camera back and forth between eyes. You can actually build a slider for your digital camera tripod mount fairly inexpensively. A better option is to buy a 3D camera or even buy two inexpensive cameras to take simultaneous pictures.
  4. Don’t attempt action shots without a 3D camera or two synchronized cameras. If you build a two camera tripod mount you can get great action 3D shots, otherwise you will be too slow to take two pictures simultaneously.
  5. Make sure lighting is stable. If the flash is on for one shot and not the other, then it will be like having sunglasses on with one lens missing when you go to view your pictures.

Even if you are not going to do anything with your 3D pictures now, you would be smart to provide yourself the option for the future if you ever want to see your special memories in 3D again. Your wedding, party, trip to an amazing place, and even your child's birth won't come again. If you do not have two perspectives, you will not be able to create real 3D.

After you take some pictures and get tired of crossing your eyes, check out some of the inexpensive viewers available online to display your pictures in amazing 3D.

3D Videos are Even Better

It's probably easiest to start out taking 3d pictures, but in the near future, you will likely be viewing videos on youtube in 3d. 3D Smart t.v.'s are allowing people to stream YouTube 3D video content over WiFi.

YouTube may become the primary provider of 3D video content streaming since NetFlix and others are lacking in their 3D content offerings.


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    • Blake Flannery profile imageAUTHOR

      Blake Flannery 

      5 years ago from United States

      My brother was doing this before regular digital cameras were out. You can even use a film camera, it's just more of a pain to do the editing and trimming of the image.

    • TolovajWordsmith profile image

      Tolovaj Publishing House 

      5 years ago from Ljubljana

      I had no idea a regular digital camera can make 3D pictures, but thinking of the mechanism how we actually 'trick' the brain with two similar picture blending in one, it totally make sense. Have to try this, thanks!

    • ThePelton profile image


      9 years ago from Martinsburg, WV USA

      My Mother had an old nineteenth century stereopticon viewer and a bunch of browntone stereo photo cards. She started making three dimensional photos using color print film, and literally pasting the images doubled on cards to fit the old viewer. She would take two photos of each object she wanted to preserve, a few seconds and a few feet apart, and hope nothing drastic changed in between, such as a person walking through the picture, and becoming a ghost.

    • Pierre Savoie profile image

      Pierre Savoie 

      9 years ago from Canada

      But I'd make one correction. The "Magic Eye" books are NOT books with pairs of pictures. The pages are single two-dimensional patterns, regular but not quite even, computer-generated so that if you focus "beyond" them in the parallel technique, three-dimensional shapes will appear, all looking like the pattern, with no particular color of their own.

    • Pierre Savoie profile image

      Pierre Savoie 

      9 years ago from Canada

      A good hub! It's very easy to take 3D photos if you take 2 plain photos in a careful way as described. I was also used to the cross-eyed method of viewing 3D because scientific chemistry journals routinely publish computer-generated photos of molecules where 3D representation is important. We learn very quickly to cross our eyes to see the representation with no glasses needed.

      I did a good one of a Canadian singer called "Lederhosen Lucil" although now she performs under her real name:

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      After you take some pictures and get tired of crossing your eyes, check out some of the inexpensive viewers available online to display your pictures in amazing 3D.

      Like where?

      Why not add some links / examples and show us


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