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What is Stereo Photography?

When you look at an object nearby, each eye sends a picture to your brain that is received from a slightly different viewpoint. The brain instantly recognizes the dissimilarities (horizontal disparities) between this pair of images, and constructs the perception of space: distance & volume.

Stereo photography mimics this optical system, and can faithfully reproduce the view and perception of space. The scene is photographed from two viewpoints. When the resultant pair of pictures is presented to each eye individually, the brain is able to "fuse" the two images into a three dimensional view. This brain function is called "stereopsis."

There are different ways to take a stereo photograph, some of them surprisingly simple. With a single camera, one simply needs two exposures taken from slightly different viewpoints. This method is suitable for static subjects and indispensable for hyperstereos of landscapes.

For action photos or portraits, simultaneous exposures are necessary. This can be accomplished with stereo cameras that have two lenses, or with two separate cameras that are synchronized. This is primarily how I shoot, as portraits are my favorite discipline. Look here to see my studio and camera set-up.

Once the pictures are taken, they must be viewed so that each picture is presented exclusively to the appropriate eye. There are many methods available for such presentation. Optical viewers are available to view either print or slide pairs, and several formats are popular. Filtering can also be applied to stereo images that are overlapped on a medium (also called "multiplexed"). The anaglyph process is one example of this, where left and right views are presented in red and blue color, and viewed with corresponding filters over the eyes.

On this website, both anaglyph images and stereo pair images are presented. To enjoy the anaglyphs, of course you will need a set of 3-d glasses (I can provide). The on-screen stereo pairs can be viewed by "cross-eyed free-viewing."

For maximum realism in shooting your own stereo views, I recommend shooting and viewing slide film.

By the way, not everyone has the ability to perceive depth through stereopsis. About 10% of the population is at least partially "stereo-blind". Stereo-blindness may be related to the malfunction of one of the eyes (muscular disorder, cataracts, etc.), or may be an entirely neurologic failing.

However, stereo-blind people can perceive some depth using non-stereoscopic cues. This can be proven by looking at any standard photograph - usually one can make some judgments as to the size and distance of objects in the picture. An understanding of shapes and volumes gives many cues about depth. Haze and atmospheric effects also provide depth cues on larger scales. More depth cues can be derived from motion parallax, such as are used when driving a car.


Pictured above is a small stereo camera constructed from two Olympus XA "point and shoot" 35mm cameras. (Actually, the XA somewhat predates the P+S concept, so although these are aperture priority auto exposure, they are not auto-focus).

Click here for more on this camera.

Stereo Pairs

Most of the 3-d images on this site are presented as cross-eyed stereo pairs. This format allows you to see the stereoscopic image in full color without the use of glasses or optical aid of any kind. Click here to participate in a tutorial that will teach you how to "free view" such stereo pairs.

A minority of users will have anaglyph glasses available (or will have obtained them from me). For them I provide links to anaglyph images, sometimes in two sizes. Some projects and fine art prints are available only as anaglyphs, and are not shown as stereo pairs.



Clicking on these red/blue buttons gets you a stereo image called an anaglyph. Here the left and right picture overlap, but are of different colors. This sort of image is viewed with a set of glasses, where the left lens is red and the right lens is blue. Thus each eye sees only the image intended for it.

You can get anaglyph glasses from several sources, listed on my links page. Rainbow Symphony offers free glasses to interested individuals. Make sure to specify anaglyph 3d glasses.

ANAGLYPH (enlarged)

STEREO PAIR (enlarged)

Clicking on black and white magnifier will get you an enlarged stereo pair image.

JPS files

This gets you a large cross-eyed pair in jpeg format, suitable for viewing with liquid crystal shutter glasses. This file format is called .jps, and is legible to a utility called depthcharge.

Gallery Tour

Take the tour in any given gallery by clicking on these right arrows, and your browser will be able to use a pre-loaded stereo pair image from the next page. This will make your navigation go faster.

Help View

This button, available on all the gallery pages, takes you to the cross-eyed free viewing tutorial.


When you view an anaglyph image on screen using your 3-d glasses, please be aware that the spatial quality depends on two variables that are beyond my control. First, I cannot know the exact colors of the filters in your glasses - there is substantial variability there. Second, color monitors vary greatly in their reproduction of color balance. If you find the anaglyphs difficult to view, with "ghosting" or "crosstalk" of the left and right images (i.e. you are seeing double), try to adjust the color of you monitor so that the reds are stronger, and the blues relatively subdued - instead of a bluish white on-screen, try to adjust for more of a beige white.

In my experience, most consumer grade monitors come out of the box showing an image that is far too blue, making good anaglyphs difficult to reproduce, because red and blue need to be equally balanced. As the anaglyphs on this site are targeted towards graphics professionals and photographers, who will generally use color balanced monitors, your consumer grade monitor may show problems. Many monitors come with hardware or software controls for color balance. If you don't have such controls, an excellent utility called GAMMA by Thomas Knoll Software may allow you to adjust your monitor.

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