Deke’s Techniques 044: Making a Stereoscopic Photo

044 Shooting and assembling a stereoscopic photo

As I write this, I’ve published 20 hours of video training on the topic of 3D imaging in Photoshop. (For those who may be curious, it begins with the 5-hour Photoshop CS5 Extended One-on-One: 3D Fundamentals, about which you can learn more at These movies are all about creating photorealistic 3D artwork from scratch. But what if you’re not interested in 3D artwork? What if you want to create 3D photographs? Well then you’re in luck, because that’s precisely what this week’s technique is all about.

Remember those old View-Master images? It’s like that, only with glasses. Plus loads of fun and really easy.

In today’s free video, I show you how to shoot two photographs—one for each of your naturally stereoscopic eyes—using a standard single-lens camera. And then I assemble them in Photoshop so that the composite image appears in everyday-average lifelike depth when viewed through a pair of red-cyan glasses, like the ones pictured below, provided by Fotolia.

3D glasses from the Fotolia image library

Red, white, and blue. What a fitting day-after-Fourth-of-July tribute! Meanwhile, here’s the official description from

In this week’s free Deke’s Technique, you’ll see how to create a classic anaglyphic, stereoscopic 3D image in Photoshop. Anaglyphs are created by superimposing two slightly different perspectives of a single scene, with each version directed to one eye or the other, resulting in a palpable perception of depth. In this case, Deke shows you how to create an image intended to be viewed through those retro red (left) and cyan (right) glasses.

In order to achieve this classic effect, you have to first correctly shoot a pair of photographs with a slightly shifted perspective, like the ones captured by‘s Jacob Cunningham (below). And by slightly, I mean very slightly, just a few inches, as in the distance between your two eyes. (Even that slight adjustment makes a huge difference in the relative distance between objects, as indicated by the diagram arrows.) You then combine the two images on separate layers and merge the color channels so that each of your eyes, with the requisite glasses on, sees a slightly different image. Your brain does the rest.

Photoshop 3D anaglyph diagram

If that’s not enough depth for you, members of can see an exclusive video in the Online Training Library, in which Deke (this time with the help of Jacob Cunningham and model Shea Hansen) demonstrates how to create a stereoscopic image that projects out beyond the screen plane, as pictured below.

Extending a 3D photo beyond the “screen plane”

So grab your cardboard glasses and experience digital photography in 3D! And come back again next week for another free (3D) technique from Deke.

Incidentally, for those who may regard 3D as something of a gimmick, permit me to disagree. Granted, this particular variety is a bit old school, marrying Photoshop and the larger world of digital photography with 1950s-era glasses. But depth is as much an ingredient in our real-world visual landscape as luminance and color. To accept that we must, as a rule, present photographs bereft of depth strikes me as downright bizarre.

So, please, consider this technique as nothing less or more than another one of the tools in your deep arsenal of digital photography options.

Next entry:Deke’s Techniques 046: Adding Stereo-3D Text and Shapes

Previous entry:Add the Definitive Edge with Sharpening

  • Alternative approach with full color

    Deke, I’ve made lots of these and maintained perfect color: Keep the image in color.

    On one image open Levels. Switch to “Red Channel”  and drag the white output arrow all the way to the left. In the other image, open Levels, switch to “Blue channel” and again drag the white output level arrow to the left. Switch to the “Green channel”, same image, and again drag the output arrow to the left. Now you have two appropriately colored files. Drag one onto the other and turn the top layer’s Blend Mode to Screen.

    Color will be perfect and the image is 3D.

  • Dekes Techniques 025

    I seem to have missed a tutorial because I don’t know how to change the Horse or Goose to Greyscale. Help.

  • Image > Mode > Grayscale

    Image > Mode > Grayscale

  • sharper Stereoscopic anaglyphs

    I find doing the following provides a sharper image and easier to focus on.

    I stand with my camera and close my right eye. I focus on a point. I take the shot.

    I stand with my camera and close my left eye. Without moving I move the camera to my right eye. I focus on the same point and take the shot.

    I would then follow Dekes steps to the point where you have the Cyan/Red Shadows.

    I then click on the top left image, change the opacity to 50% and then move the left image until it matches with the right eye image at the point of the focus.

    Once both images match up at that point, I return the opacity back to 100%

    With the 3D glasses on, I then check it out. Using this method I find the images are sharper and give better 3D results.

    Also with the 3D Glasses on, you can move the Left image from side to side and you get different depths of field to suit your taste.

  • Yet another approach, keeping colour

    Another option is to drop a flat red layer on top of the right image, then set it to multiply. Set a cyan layer on top of the left image and again set it to multiply.  Bung each into groups and drag one group on top of the other. Set the top group to screen.

    A benefit of doing it this way is that you can actually adjust the red/cyan overlay colours to exactly match the colours of your glasses. I did this by holding the glasses up to the screen in front of a blank white window, then adjusting my colours with HSL.  I found my “cyan” lens was way off!


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