Through the Viewfinder- a tutorial

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I am digging in my personal blog archives for today’s post. I was unpacking boxes in the garage over the weekend and found my camera collection (YEA!!). I thought it might be fun to share a tutorial I made several years ago on the technique know as, TtV or Through the Viewfinder.  I hope you enjoy!


The first thing you have to do is find a sweet little vintage camera. I like my Kodak Duaflex II, but I know others use various types of twin lens cameras. As long as you can shoot your digital camera into the viewfinder of the film camera, you are good to go.

the dua

Now that you have an old camera to shoot into, what do you do? You could just shoot straight down into the viewfinder by holding the old camera in one hand and your digital camera in the other. If you did that, you would get something like these two images.

ttv outback

ttv cracker-snacker

Totally fine. But what I like is the clean look that you get when you build a ‘contraption’ around your old camera. The contraption also helps eliminate the glare that can occur in your shot and make it so you onot get a photo of your digital camera reflecting back at you. The contraption is a little silly looking and definitely takes the “cute” away from the duaflex, but it does the trick. Be ready for a few funny looks while out in public! I do however find this technique to be a fantastic conversation starter! Case in point:
Here is my contraption.

the contraption

I used a cereal box (any soft cardboard will work). WItch it I bugly a box around the top of the film camera (the duaflex has a ‘flip top’ lid that covers the viewfinder when not in use. Build up from that). You want to try to cover all the light leaks that might occur in the contraption, hence the blue painters tape in my example. The height of your box will vary depending on the lens you are shooting with. I switch to one of my lenses that allow for me to zoom in really close or do macro shots.
A very important thing to remember while you are building the contraption, you will want to keep testing the lens of your digital camera inside of it in order to make sure it will fit properly. There is nothing more frustrating that making a contraption only to find out that your camera’s lens won’t fit inside! (Ahem, I speak from experience here, can you tell?)
You will want to be able to give enough room for your lens to auto focus, yet have it snug enough that it won’t slip off too easily. I have thought about creating a contraption out of a black fabric of some sort or another- sort of like a sock that fits around the old camera and that I can stick my lens into, but I haven’t gotten that far. If you come up with something let me know. I think the “sock” would allow for a bit more freedom and easier packing of your cameras!

Down The Isle

OK, you have your camera, you built your box, now what? Go find a subject with lots of color- the more color the better. Set your lens on auto focus, stick that sucker into the contraption box, and start shooting! I find natural light really helps get a nice clear photo. You might notice as you shoot and look at your results on the digital camera’s screen (or if you are patient enough once you come back in from shooting and upload your photos) that you are getting pictures that look something like this.

Tulips 2

See all that black area around the iMage? It’s the sides of the contraption box- to get a nice pretty crop you will need to head into your post processing software and crop. I also like to use the rotation tool to level out my image so it isn’t all wonky. When cropping I use the square template, this helps the image stay more true to the viewfinder/film size of the old camera. The next thing you might want to play around with in post  is the saturation, exposure and contrast- I find saturating and adding a bit of contrast to my TtV photos really makes them pop.

tent aka hotel room

Now you might be asking, “But Vanessa, where the heck do I find a camera to do this with”? I picked mine up in at a thrift store (I actually have two now). eBay is always a good place to look as well, lots of people don’t know what to do with these old cameras. I wouldn’t pay more than $15 or $20 for one. I think I paid no more than $10 for each of mine. You can certainly use any camera besides the duaflex as your ‘old camera’ so play around with one you have in your current collection. When I first started using this technique I used my grandfather’s Yashica. But because it is so heavy, and because I would cry if something happened to it, I found a duaflex instead. I like the grain that the dust gives my photos, some people don’t. I have read that you can open up the camera and clean off the lens but I haven’t done that.

Can I self portrait using this technique?
365-Day59--Present Wrapping
Yup! In the shot above, I set up my DSLR with the tripod and set my contraption on the floor- I think I might have stuck a book under it or used my mini-tripod to give it a bit more height. I then set up the two cameras like I normally would, DSLR pointing into the contraption, and the duaflex pointing at me. I set my timer and then got into place- alternately I could have used my remote but the battery went south on me, so I was doing the ten second dash to get this shot.


What if you don’t have a DSLR? You don’t have to have a fancy DSLR to shoot these types of photos- Before I got my Canon I used my Sony Cybershot. You will just have to adjust your contraption accordingly to makes sure that when you zoom with your digital camera, that you can get the viewfinder of the old camera into focus. I recommend setting the digi-camera on the macro setting (usually the flower icon in the settings. refecltion and history
You’ll notice in the picture above that I got a reflection of the back of the viewfinder of my ‘old’ camera- As I mentioned above this is what can happen without building the contraption. It blocks out the light around and lets the viewfinder of the old camera be the star of the show.

Want to see more examples? This flickr group has a ton of really amazing inspiration and also a great discussion group to help you out along the way.  Now get out there and show us what you can do!!! Share with us okay???! Use the hashtag #viewfindersio so we can find you!

Keep chasing that light,



  1. I always meant to try this, but never have! The building of the “contraption” always slowed me down. Maybe I need to put this idea back on my list!

    • Ohh that part was fun! If it took me a whole 30 minutes, that would have been pushing it. I think the hardest part was getting it to fit just right over my lens…. I would love to see what you come up with!

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