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Home arrow Photography Tips arrow TTV, Digital And A Waist Level Viewfinder
Photography Tip: TTV, Digital And A Waist Level Viewfinder

andrewparmi20110411-pic1.jpgTTV: (Through The Viewfinder) A new way to see things. site contributor:

Andrew Parmiwebsite


Through The Viewfinder (TTV) is a technique which marries a DSLR with an old viewfinder camera, allowing the DSLR to capture the image shown through the viewfinder screen. The end result is an image with a retro or nostalgic mood.

This tutorial will show you how to create unique images without spending a ridiculous amount of money on new equipment.

Here’s what you will need:


•    DSLR Camera
•    Macro Lens or Filter (for standard lenses)
•    Old viewfinder camera
•    Duck Tape
•    Cardboard box, post-it tube or other similar materials

Part One: The Viewfinder Camera

The first thing you need is an old viewfinder camera. Kodak Duaflex or Ansco Rediflex are ideal and are readily available through eBay or other online auction sites, as well as second hand camera stores.  Google can help you find them too, if you ask nicely.

Below is the type of viewfinder you should look out for. Typically, one with a large viewing screen will produce the best images.

The viewfinder camera front and top 
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Part Two: The Light Hiding Contraption

Next thing you need is a box like contraption that will sit over the viewfinder camera and cut out any light between it and your DSLR. Without this contraption, your images will most likely over expose and you will lose detail to light leaks.
The box can be made out of  almost anything around the home. I created mine out of the box the viewfinder camera was mailed to me in. Others have used a postal tube, piping, ice cream containers or take away containers too. A bit of innovation here, goes a long way.

Part Three: How To Build Your Contraption

The contraption will need a hole cut out in the front for the viewfinder lenses to see through (see image below) and a hole at the top, for the DSLR lens to fit into. The best way to measure an exact hole is to use your lens cap as a template, draw around it, and cut out. You will also need a hole at the front for your viewfinder lenses to fit through. Important to note: The type of lens you have will determine the height of your contraption.  See images below for more detail.


I duck taped the entire box together to reinforce it and help keep the shape of the contraption. I also attached a flap at the bottom to stop the viewfinder falling out when holding the box. (a piece of cardboard attached with duck tape) It’s also handy for swapping cameras, should you ever purchase a second or third viewfinder. It’s addictive, so you just might.

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Finally, I covered the entire contraption in black contact paper. Partly to hide the duck tape and make it look that little bit more professional, but mainly for extra strength and waterproofing.

Part Four: Time To Shoot

Now you’re ready to shoot..

Firstly, set your DSLR to aperture priority mode.
Place the viewfinder inside the box, so its lenses are showing through the rectangular hole in front. As shown below.


Now place your DSLR lens, (macro, or standard with filter attached) through the hole you cut in the top. You should be able to look through the viewfinder on your DSLR and see the image the viewfinder is displaying. Turning ‘live view’ on can help with this too.


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Carry your contraption and try to find something to shoot. Landscapes, objects in your home, trees and buildings make fantastic subjects.

It’s important to keep the DSLR as straight as possible to ensure the images being reflected are well balanced and captured flat, rather than at an angle.

The biggest challenge with this technique is your movement. The image on your viewfinder will move in the opposite direction to your own movement. (Move to the left, image moves to right). Keeping this in mind will help minimise your frustration with alignment and framing of the shot. Once you get your movement and technique right, you should end up with images as shown below. (After a quick crop in Photoshop, that is)

Experiment with light and shadow in this, you will achieve some great results with the right lighting.
Note: This technique does not work well with low light conditions. As a tripod can’t be used, camera shake can result without proper lighting.

Remember to have fun!

(Click the images for larger preview)


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