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How To Shoot In 3D

3D is all the rage these days, and upcoming films aren't going to “kill it” at the box office without providing an IMAX experience. Whether you love it or hate it, you can’t deny that the 3D effect can stop you in your tracks - especially when it is unexpected.

Beijing-based photographer, Matjaz Tancic is an aficionado in creating striking images that appear in print, inspired by the intricate details that pop in each image. He fell in love with the intimacy of 3D photography.

Like most, his curiosity for photography stemmed from his childhood, where he experimented with disposable cameras before his parents eventually bought him his own pocket camera. This ultimately led to his enrollment into the London College of Fashion, where he studied Fashion Photography. It was during this time where he chanced upon the work of 3D imaging expert Peter Gedei, which fueled his passion to pursue this craft - but he quickly discovered that this was not going to be a walk in the park.

“Despite the initial disagreements with my professors at London College of Fashion, who wanted me to shoot using more traditional techniques, I still decided to shoot my final project in 3D.” His gamble certainly paid off, and he recently won Best 3D photo at the World Photography Association in London.

The rules of photography change entirely when you begin shooting in 3D. In traditional photography, the aim is for the person or subject to be in focus, with no disturbing elements around them. In 3D photography, the “clutter” is integral in creating the depth of space whilst complimenting the subject.

“When shooting in 3D, you have to think about what is going to look good in 3D and what is not. If you are shooting a white paper on a white table there is minimal depth. But if you have a table full of say, fruit, dishes, bottles, there are many layers to the image. This is just one of many technical challenges that you have to take in to the consideration.”

In terms of executing the shot, Matjaz breaks it down to the minimal requirement: it’s all about getting two shots - one for the left eye and one for the right. The distance between these two points is called the interaxial, which is what the brain uses to combine the two images together. In theory, this is best achieved with two identical cameras placed exactly 6.5cm apart, as the average person’s eyes sit that far away. However,in practice the distance varies from image to image, as it takes a keen eye to adjust it to just the right point.

“What sounds easy in theory is really complicated in practice. First of all, for every photograph you take, you have to adjust the interaxial distance, taking into consideration the closest object to the camera, the object that is the furthest and the focal length of the lens.”

Another one of his tricks of the trade includes using a beam-splitter rig. Typically, one camera is positioned horizontally to shoot through a piece of optical-grade mirror glass, whilst a second camera is set perpendicularly and vertically, filming off the reflection on the face of the mirrored glass. In this position, the shift in perspective between the two cameras can be very slight, eliminating the issue of objects appearing too flat.

Matjaz recalls his hardest technical challenge so far, when he and his team shot a 3D live concert in Ljubljana, Slovenia. When it comes to concerts, photographers usually stick to shooting at f1.4.-2.8, but to translate that depth of field Matjaz was forced to use an aperture above f8. In such low-lit conditions, it proved to be a difficult obstacle to overcome.

“For a solid 3D photograph, it is recommended to use apertures above f8, so it was quite a challenge to have sharp photos and good depth without working with too high of an ISO.

Not to mention the fast movement of all the performers.”

His usual repertoire includes a Nikon D800, but depending on the job he combines the use of a 3D rig and a smaller Nikon D7100 - the rest is down to pure skill and knowledge of his equipment.

His advice for anyone who wants to take the dive into 3D photography? “Same advice as I would give for anything else... Practice, test, make mistakes, learn, be curious, ask questions, shoot some more, fail some more, learn some more... Absolutely everything is achievable, it is just a question of determination and hard work.”


© Matjaz Tancic