Through the viewfinder (a Photoshop tutorial of sorts)

I’m rarely on the bandwagon with photo processing trends, mostly because, well, have you seen the pile of laundry in my living room? And, oh, and these guys keep me a little busy, too.

So while the rest of the photo enthusiasts I love to read were playing with things like selective color, way back when, and texture, sloppy borders, vintage washes and cross processing, I just watched from the sidelines.

But I recently came across this clever technique, called TTV (Through the Viewfinder). Basically, you shoot through the viewfinder of an old camera, using your modern digital or film camera, and create an interesting framing effect in camera. I thought to myself, “That’s kind of fun.”

Apparently hundreds of other people thought the same thing, and decided to make a Flickr group and share their images. You’ll see some AMAZING versions of this technique there.

However, the laundry in my living room didn’t go anywhere, and the 9,000 other things that beckon kept beckoning, so it remained a nice idea until I saw this–a way to do it digitally, without hunting for an old camera to shoot through. Hooray!

So I tried it. And thought I would share the steps with you, since so many of you have taught me wonderful Photoshop techniques.

Hope you’ll share some of your tries with this technique. Or, if you don’t have Photoshop and want me to try on one of your photos, I will pick a few that people send me to try it. (Email me a high-res version at hankandwillieATgmailDOTcom.)

TTV-Through the Viewfinder

1. Find a suitable photo. I loved the old-fashioned feel of the print in her dress, her pigtails and the timeless watermelon-in-summer-moment.

2. Since this effect mimics the old waist-height viewfinders with square pictures, I cropped this one square, even though her buddy was equally cute.

3. Edit to taste. I’ve seen this done with strong, vibrant color, with black and white and with sepia. I went for kind of a mild vintage feel here, using Pioneer Woman’s Soft and Faded action here and reduced the opacity a bit to restore some of the bright color of her watermelon.

4. I opened this file, shared by a very generous photographer out there in Flickrland.There’s a whole group of “through a viewfinder shots” to download here, choose the speckle pattern you like best!

It looks like this:

5. Using layers, drag it on top of your open, edited image, and size it to fit. ( I used free transform.)

6. Choose a blend mode, and voila! (I used multiply, and reduced the opacity to about 80%. You can also try other blending modes, like soft light and hard light for different effects.)

The whole thing took longer to write about than to do. Here are a few other examples.

If you try this, I’d love to see the results, post your link in the comments!

And want to see a super cool way to use this? Photographer Tara Whitney decorated a whole wall with her family photos this way. Wow.

Happy PhotoShopping!

Anna Sawin

Anna Sawin is a Connecticut-based portrait, wedding, and editorial photographer. She lives in the shoreline town of Stonington with her family and has discovered the perfect cupcake. Just ask, she is willing to share her secret.

32 Comments

  1. JC on August 19, 2008 at 11:10 am

    GOOD GOD WOMAN!

    I LOVE YOUR PHOTOS!

    PROST!

  2. JenBun on August 19, 2008 at 1:34 pm

    Wow, that turned out AMAZINGLY well!

    I’ll have to try this sometime…

    Thanks for sharing this fun technique! (And all the links!)

  3. killlashandra on August 19, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    Great tutorial steps! Your pictures turned out awesome! Regardless of the loads of laundry you’ve got waiting for your undivided attention this activity seems like way more fun. 🙂

  4. Maya on August 19, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    I’m going to check this out! Super cool!

  5. B. on August 19, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    Great shots. They are so cool I can’t pick a favorite…who needs clean socks anyway!

  6. carrievoris on August 19, 2008 at 4:12 pm

    I found these awhile back…I can’t remember how I got to them. And I played with them, but I don’t think I ever posted the results! Now, I need to go back and look for the ones I was messing with…I love the TTV effect and I really, really LOVE what Tara did – that is definitely going to get stolen…

  7. phyllis on August 19, 2008 at 10:49 pm

    very cool. thanks for sharing this!

  8. Sarah on August 20, 2008 at 9:10 am

    oh oh dear. I’m already hopelessly addicted to PS actions as it is! Clearly that is just a gateway drug, though. 😉

  9. Brillig on August 20, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    First of all, wow! Way cool!

    Secondly, I just realized that I never published your guest post over at my place, and I feel like a complete moron. I could never get the pics to work, so I started writing you an email and… lo and behold… it’s sitting in my draft folder. Anyway, you must think I’m such a jerk. I’m really not! I promise! If you wanna try again, we certainly can! We can try to get the old post to work or (if you think that one’s outdated) we can do a new one. Either way… lemme know!

  10. MGF on August 20, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    Thanks for the great tip. I can not wait to play around with the new texture. I would like to use this with a picture form the Sand Dunes.

  11. Christina on August 20, 2008 at 4:43 pm

    Anna! I am so thrilled to see a tutorial from you, and hope this is the first of many more to come. Yes? The TTV effect is so much fun…I have played with it a little bit, but I will have to do more and post them! Especially now that you shared that link to a tresure trove of textures for it!

  12. apple cyder on August 21, 2008 at 12:12 pm

    Thanks for this Anna. I’ve been seeing this on flickr too, and love it. May have to dedicate some lunch break time to the computer lab on campus to do this.

  13. carrievoris on August 21, 2008 at 6:34 pm

    Ok – I had to go dig out the TTV I had from before and played a bit last night. This one was one of my favorites. http://www.flickr.com/photos/voris/2784622945/in/photostream/

  14. thelandofka on August 28, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing this! I am definitely going to try this out, and I love your examples. 🙂

  15. CuriousC on August 29, 2008 at 10:38 am

    These are beautiful! I’ve been trying to play, too, but I don’t think I have the right software. Which version of Photoshop do you need?

  16. createmo on November 1, 2008 at 10:14 pm

    Thank you for your site 🙂
    I made with photoshop backgrounds for youtube, myspace and whatever
    my backgrounds:http://tinyurl.com/6ptkxd
    all the best and thank you again!

  17. ginger on December 14, 2008 at 9:51 pm

    Thanks so much for the great photoshop tips!
    NEVER knew about the whole blend mode/opacity thing how great!
    couldn’t figure out how to use pioneer woman’s faded action…
    maybe i don’t have the right version of photoshop!
    But i just fixed up an okay picture of my boys for our Christmas card!
    So thanks so much! I would post but don’t have an ‘official’ website!

  18. […] Through the Viewfinder Did you know that Flickr has a Through the Viewfinder group? The idea is that you shoot through the viewfinder of an old camera using your modern digital or film camera and create an interesting framing effect. Here is a tutorial on how to create this effect. […]

  19. CMS Code on March 11, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    […] Through the Viewfinder Did you know that Flickr has a Through the Viewfinder group? The idea is that you shoot through the viewfinder of an old camera using your modern digital or film camera and create an interesting framing effect. Here is a tutorial on how to create this effect. […]

  20. […] Through the Viewfinder Did you know that Flickr has a Through the Viewfinder group? The idea is that you shoot through the viewfinder of an old camera using your modern digital or film camera and create an interesting framing effect. Here is a tutorial on how to create this effect. […]

  21. […] Through the Viewfinder Did you know that Flickr has a Through the Viewfinder group? The idea is that you shoot through the viewfinder of an old camera using your modern digital or film camera and create an interesting framing effect. Here is a tutorial on how to create this effect. […]

  22. […] Through the Viewfinder Did you know that Flickr has a Through the Viewfinder group? The idea is that you shoot through the viewfinder of an old camera using your modern digital or film camera and create an interesting framing effect. Here is a tutorial on how to create this effect. […]

  23. […] Textures and Double Exposure Through the Viewfinder Did you know that Flickr has a Through the Viewfinder group? The idea is that you shoot through the […]

  24. Zach on September 15, 2010 at 10:42 pm

    Thanks for the tutorial! One thing that I’ve noticed on a lot of “real” TTV shots is the slight distortion and blurring at the edges. I added an inverse pinch and some masked blur to this shot…

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/76302244@N00/4995103144/

  25. […] Through the Viewfinder Did you know that Flickr has a Through the Viewfinder group? The idea is that you shoot through the viewfinder of an old camera using your modern digital or film camera and create an interesting framing effect. Here is a tutorial on how to create this effect. […]

  26. […] Through the Viewfinder Did you know that Flickr has a Through the Viewfinder group? The idea is that you shoot through the viewfinder of an old camera using your modern digital or film camera and create an interesting framing effect. Here is a tutorial on how to create this effect. […]

  27. fancifuldevices on December 16, 2010 at 12:53 am

    ok, 2 years after you posted it, I am using it in myt shop pics here: fancifuldevices.etsy.com
    thank you so so so much!

  28. Nowy wpis – tutorial « goooddesign on December 29, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    […] Through the Viewfinder37 Did you know that Flickr has a Through the Viewfinder group? The idea is that you shoot through the viewfinder of an old camera using your modern digital or film camera and create an interesting framing effect. Here is a tutorial on how to create this effect. […]

  29. Angi ~Mistress of Mayhem on June 13, 2011 at 12:02 am

    So cool! Thanks for sharing the tutorial! I love the TTV look – so many ways to use it. Tara Whitney…well, she’s just awesome!

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anna

Anna Sawin is a Connecticut-based portrait, wedding, and editorial photographer. She lives in the shoreline town of Stonington with her family and has discovered the perfect cupcake. Just ask, she is willing to share her secret.