Guest Author - Kerry Estey Keith
Through the viewfinder photography ( TTV ) is an easy technique to capture vintage looking photos with a digital camera, without much editing. It involves two cameras: a digital camera and an antique Twin Lens Reflex ( TLR ) camera. Essentially, you will be composing the shot with the TLR camera and capturing the shot with the digital camera.
Here is a list of the items you will need to have on hand to start this project:
- An old TLR camera like the ArgoFlex 75, Kodak Duaflex, Ansco Rediflex
- A digital SLR ( single lens reflex )
- Macro Lens or Macro lens filter
- Lens Hood
- Tripod (optional but recommended)
- Cardboard mailing tube (must fit over lens hood)
- Black Duct Tape
- Small piece of black cloth (matte not shiny)
- Flat black spray paint
- A photo editing program like Photoshop, Lightroom, or a free online program
Lens hoods can be purchased at any photo equipment store online. A good quality TLR camera can be found on eBay very reasonably priced (under $20) and in antique stores a bit higher (around $45 here in Northern Arizona.) You will need a standard rigid lens hood to keep light from entering the top of the viewfinder on the TLR.
Use a shipping tube cut to about 6-8", painted black if you are getting light reflections or flares. The mailing tube gets attached to the lens hood with black duct tape. A piece of black cloth can be used at the end of the mailing tube to “drape” over the top of the TLR camera without covering any of the lenses. This is only needed in extremely bright sunlight. Attach the lens hood (with the mailing tube) to the digital SLR camera.
Fix the lovely vintage TLR camera to the tripod at about waist level. Compose your shot through the TLR. It is very important to compose the shot the way you would like it to look before you lower the tube/hood down over the TLR because it is much more difficult to move tripod and two cameras around, than just the one. When you’ve composed the image, point the digital camera (with all its attachments) down into the viewfinder. If you are shooting in manual mode, keep in mind the light meter will not be accurate. Experiment with different exposure settings until you get what you want.
It also helps to have a macro lens or lens attachment (cheap threaded macro filter.) Try out different strengths; half the fun of TTV is working out the kinks and idiosyncrasies. What it will give you is a lovely dreamy look: blurry at the edges, slightly distorted, and one sweet sharp point of focus.
After you have finished your photo shoot, bring your images into the editing program of your choice. Crop the images to remove the largest portion of black. Most often, the images are cropped square to include only a thin black border with rounded corners. Each TLR camera you use will have a slightly different look than another. Aged glass, dust particles and the condition of the viewing lens will all play a role in how your image turns out. Experimenting with this process will offer hours of fun and learning. Be sure to check out other creative TTV images on sites such as Flickr.
I’d love to hear your ideas, questions, concerns and especially links to your TTV images. Follow the link to the forum and there will be a thread dedicated to this topic.