Photography Tutorial: Shooting Through the Viewfinder


What exactly did I do to capture this cool, retro look?



Shooting Through the Viewfinder (or TtV) is a really rad technique in which a photo is shot with one camera THROUGH the viewfinder of a second camera. It’s like adding a special kind of lens filter. In my case, I saw some really retro looking images on-line and wanted to know “how’d you do that!?” (and, you know me…if it involves a DIY project…I’m in!)

The most popular method to do this involves using a digital camera (in this case, my Canon 5d Mark III), and an older (retro baby!), twin-lens reflex camera (TLR). I found one on EBAY (The Vintage Argus Argoflex Twin Lens TLR Camera w/4.5 75mm Lens) for $40…in mint condition!! And waited patiently for 3 days…

Back in the 1970’s I remember my mom having this square leather-cased waist-leveled camera hanging from her neck. I used to love playing with it…playing “reporter”, as I went around the house taking fake pictures. Click…Click…Click!

So, how does one capture that look?

The first thing you need to do is make a contraption like tube to link the two cameras and to block out any excess light. This also prevents reflections appearing on the viewfinder glass or on the lens of the imaging camera.

I used black matte board. I had an old piece lying around the studio and it was perfect. You can use any type of cardboard…I’ve even seen cereal boxes being used…be creative!! I also used a straight edge ruler and X-Acto Knife.


I had to go through a few lenses to see which one worked best to capture a clean shot with some of the black camera frame around the viewfinder. I went with my 90mm Tamron Lens, with a 36mm extension tube. (I tried all of my lenses, the 90mm gave me the best pic at the exact distance from the viewfinder.) (Which was about 13 inches.)


I cut strips that would encase my camera snugly. (Front and back, and the 2 sides)


Next, assemble your box with either gaffer tape or masking tape. I used black PH Neutral Masking Premium.


Next, I wanted to make a notch so that when I slid the box over the TLR camera the lens would hold it in place.


And, here it is!

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And some samples:

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Depending on the model of twin-lens reflex camera (TLR) you find, the resulting image may have an old-fashioned feel to it, often with vignetting, blurred edges, distortion and dust. I am in LOVE with this technique!!!

Extra Tip: The image in a TLR viewfinder is laterally reversed, i.e. it is a mirror image. When editing, you can either flip it back or leave it depending on the outcome (for pics with words…flip it back).

HAVE FUN with this one!!!

Post pics if you decide to do this as well!
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