Sunday, September 25, 2011

Photography: When to use 3D?

I've had my first 3D camera, a Fujifilm Finepix Real 3D W3, for about 9 months. One of the things I think I have sorted out is when to use 3D in my photographs.

His Chair. His Place.
(R/C anaglyph)
The short answer as far as I'm concerned is: Use it for everything. 

The simple reason I say that is, to me, everything looks better with some depth in it. Depth adds information to context, literally adding another dimension to every photo you take or video you may capture.

Fortunately, the Fuji camera has a feature that allows you to take both a 2D and a 3D photo at the same time and stores a copy of each on the SDHC card. Other devices, like the LG Optimus 3D phone, take side-by-side "unsqueezed" 3D jpeg images. If you want a 2D version you just open the file and crop away either the left or right image and you have a 2D image.

A Moment in a Market
(R/C anaglyph)
Opportunity: Taking good photos is often a matter of luck intersecting with opportunity. You have to be ready to do the right thing in the moment, if you get the chance. You might only get one shot. But if you didn't take a 3D image in the first place, then you've given that option up and may not have second chance.

 (R/C anaglyph)
Memories: A 3D image may seem like a gimmick while the subject in the photo is readily available. But I find it takes on a different light when the subject is inaccessible or gone entirely. Then, a 3D image is about as perfect a representation of the subject as one can hope for. Twenty years after a loved on has passed on or travelled far away, a 3D image lets you see them now as immediately present as they were when the image was taken. This is even more true for 3D video. I find 3D images and videos have the power to put me into that moment again in a way that 2D photos and videos simply can't do. The subject of the photo or video might be a person or a pet or place or thing you you owned that is now gone. It could be anything that's important to you. I want my recordings of these people and things to be as true to life as possible and 3D just moves that goal a little closer.

Fire Destroys Heritage Building
Toronto 2011 01 03
(R/C anaglyph)
History: I separate history from memories. Memories are mine or yours. History is a record that transcends you or I. When we are gone and our memories are dust the records we make of things that are important to us now will inform future generations of our own families and wider society about who we were and how we lived our lives. I think it would be amazing for someone 100 or 1000 years from now to be able to look at 3D images I've captured and be able to see what I saw just as I saw it as it was then....whatever the subject may be. For perspective: those old black and white photos from 150 years ago tell us a great deal. If they were hand-painted with colour, as many were, they tell us even more. They seem more real. If they also have depth and spatial context, they tell us more still....and are even more 'real'.

Whether it's a sunset or a puppy or the flowers in your garden, I think 3D is appropriate for any and all of them. The only situations where 3D fails are where the device capturing the image can't do it. The Fuji camera, with its 75mm base parallax doesn't produce good 3D images of anything closer than 2 metres. It needs to be cross-eyed to do it and it can't be - it's a camera. Similarly, the LG Optimus 3D with its 25mm base parallax can't really take good 3D photos closer than 1/2 a metre. If you want to take extreme close-ups you either need special 3D equipment or a 2D photo will have to do.

These are my opinions, of course, I'd be interested in hearing any thoughts you might about when to use 3D.

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