How To

Going Through the Viewfinder

Me - TtVing
Two Green Chairs
Red Bike Rack

Imagine setting up the perfect shot. Then, instead of shooting it, imagine lining up another camera and shooting a photo of your shot it the first camera's viewfinder. It's a photo of a photo. And it's called Through the Viewfinder (TtV) photography

While the premise may seem fairly simple, there are a number of ways to guarantee your success with this unusual medium.

I did a bit of research and experimenting of my own and towards the end of May 2006 came up with the optimal method for making Through the Viewfinder photos. The cool thing about TtV is any camera can be used on either end. The twin lens reflex I found most frequently used for the "bottom camera" is the Kodak Duaflex because its bubble glass top viewing lens makes the clearest images. Remember, everything you see through it is backwards.

Film cameras can be used for "top cameras" to shoot TtV, but most folks use digital slr cameras with a close-up macro lens. The object is to make get as close to the bottom camera's viewfinder as possible.

In order to eliminate glare and reflection in your TtV pictures, you'll need some way to block light between the viewfinder on top of the Duaflex and the digital camera. I use a contraption made from black art board and gaffers tape. I've seen some pretty wild contraptions, made from a variety of materials: cereal boxes, mailing tubes, plastic tubing and rubber parts from the plumbing section of Home Depot, cigar boxes and shoeboxes. Be creative!

The thing about TtV that I love is that the pictures end up looking like nothing else I've seen. A little Holga mixed with a bit of Diana and a pinch of Lomo LCA with a little Lensbaby added for good measure. I get consistently remarkable lo-fi looking photographs from a combination of old school and high tech. Ghosting, grime, flip, trap, bubble - the medium has spawned a whole new set of words and phrases, too. It's so damn quirky, it's cool.

Simple, but complicated. New, but old. Through the Viewfinder photography is consuming, addictive and downright fun. Any subject is game for TtV but toys, children, cars, people and flowers are most popular. People routinely stop me on the street to ask about the strange chimney-shaped thing I'm carrying - and with a quick explanation and demo, they'll let out "Ah-ha! Now, that's a great idea." I couldn't agree more.

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A detailed tutorial can be found at

Check out the Flickr TtV group at

8 responses

  • Marela

    Marela gave props (17 Oct 2008):

    very informative, thanks! I saw your shots, and i've seen others have the same effects, and wondered how it was done. then i saw that your shots were part of a story...very pleased to find that out. do you think i can practice this technique with a regular point and shoot digital and an old SLR film camera?

  • Jason Platt

    Jason Platt gave props (23 Oct 2008):

    on my way to the pawn good not to try....

  • Temple LEE Keene

    Temple LEE Keene said (23 Jan 2009):

    Funny, as I lay in bed trying to figure out what to do with my old 6x6 Rollei SLR, this exact thought came to me. I doubt that I have the where with all to do it, but the idea IS cool!

  • Adam Rose

    Adam Rose gave props (12 May 2009):

    Hey man, I really dig this series...You nailed all these shots, impressive.

  • Omran AlOwais

    Omran AlOwais (Deleted) gave props (15 May 2009):

    Thats my weekend project.

  • Maura Wolfson-Foster

    Maura Wolfson-Foster gave props (2 Aug 2010):

    Thank you for this fascinating and enlightening photo essay (and, thanks, to Devin, for pointing the way here!)

  • Deja Vu

    Deja Vu (Deleted) gave props (18 Sep 2010):

    I started doing ttv photography a few months back and have found it to be very addictive. I use a Duaflex and also an Argus Seventy-Five. Even the most boring of subjects take on a whole new life in ttv!

  • Becca Bornstein

    Becca Bornstein (Deleted) gave props (6 Apr 2011):

    Very nice, good article!

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