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Paying it forward - Viewfinder Card

Discussion in 'Photography Tips, Tricks & Tutorials Forum' started by Paul K, Apr 15, 2012.

  1. Paul K

    Paul K Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    I'm a great believer of paying it forward. In simple terms, it means if someone does you a good turn, then you 'pay it forward' to some else. Having been on here for a year or so, I have been assisted, guided, inspired, and encourage, to continue in the pursuit of photography. Thinking about this over the last day or so, I would like to pay something forward to the people who are just starting out on their journey, and perhaps also to those who have been on that journey for some time.

    When you reach your location, spend more time looking around for the photograph rather than whisking out the camera and shooting everything that moves. How is this done? By using a viewfinder card. It can be made from any material, paper, cardboard, fingers, wood, to name but a few. Plastic is probably the best, as it is flexible in your pocket, doesn't turn to mush when it gets wet, will survive a washing machine cycle and its easily replaceable. If you don't see an image in viewfinder card, you won't see it in your camera. The good thing about the card is it gets you to slow down, breathe, think, compose, and finally take the camera out the bag and shoot.

    So here is a wee tutorial on how to make a viewfinder card.

    You will need the following:
    1 scalpel or stanley knife, a ruler, a pen or pencil, and a piece of plastic. I found the plastic type wallets/Ringbinders in a whole assortment of colours for around £3 from WH Smith. One wallet/binder will do approx 10-12 cards (just in case you lose one), and a pair of scissors.

    Cut one side of the binder, so your left with a rather large rectangle. Measure the topside to approx 125mm and the breadth to 100mm. Don't try to cut it at once, but rather score the plastic maintaining a straight line, and it will eventually cut through. Guy's make sure this is not done on the wife's/Mum's dinning room table or you may find yourself served as Sunday Dinner, but it may help to have something like a self healing mat underneath. If you attempt to cut it in a oner, you may lose your shutter finger.

    Now the tricky part. Measure 3inches x 2inch rectangle inside the card as noted below. This is a common size for most sensors on DSLR cameras. Again you want to score rather than attempting to cut first time.

    When on location, take your viewfinder card out the bag or pocket and have a walk about viewing the scene through the card. Turn it horizontal for Landscape, or vertical for Portrait. For wide angle hold it up to your eye, for zoom stretch out your arm. I suppose its one of those things where your thinking 'I know there is a photograph here somewhere, but I'm struggling to find it'. The card will give you a fairly accurate account of what your image will look like. When put into good use you will begin to see its potential.

    This is by no means rocket science, it's been out for years, but I reckon it will help you attain better composite images.

    Happy snapping!

    Ps - The image below was shot on a phone just in case your wondering!
     

    Attached Files:

    Welshx likes this.
  2. Jenbenjen

    Jenbenjen Old Hand Premium Member

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    Nice one Paul - cheers
     
  3. paulmag

    paulmag Always on Administrator

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    good one an old technique helping you to see whats in front of you.
     
  4. Puffin

    Puffin Old Hand Honorary Life Member

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    Thats a good idea......nice one.
     
  5. FishPhotography

    FishPhotography Active Member

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    I've recently got my hands on one of these and can vouch for their use!
     
  6. SeanNeedham

    SeanNeedham Ol' Sparky Honorary Life Member

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    I still make these up with kids who are starting out now, Paul, they still work very well!

    One thing I do as well, is build a 'modified' one though that's usually slightly bigger than this, a 6x4 block in the middle and make two holes on each side of the rectangle, on the thirds, and put two pieces of string running the width and the other two running the height, so the third lines are in it.
     
  7. AndymW

    AndymW Active Member Premium Member

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    I was told to cut out the actual size of the sensor, i.e. 22.3mm x 14.9 for (1.6x), and then the distance from your eye to the card is the focal length lens you need to frame what you see through the card cut-out. Have I been doing it wrong?
     
  8. Paul K

    Paul K Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Hi Andrew,

    I would not get to tied down to the 'actual size' of the sensor in comparison to the card. I shoot with a Canon 7D 1.6x Crop and use the card as a reference point to find potential images in a certain senario. The viewfinder card helps me to do so.

    A full frame is 36mm by 24mm so with that taken into consideration the viewfinder card is double the size.

    So I would say you have not being doing it wrong, but can you imagine trying to look through a viewfinder card 22.3 x 14.9 it would be pretty difficult.
     
  9. chaz

    chaz Old Hand Super Moderator

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    Paul K likes this.
  10. AndymW

    AndymW Active Member Premium Member

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    Thanks for that Paul,

    The reason I’ve been using the sensor-size cut-out was I thought it would help me decide what focal length lenses I’m going to need when I get the camera, as I thought this method would give me a realistic image of what would actually be recorded by the camera; even though initially it does look a small ‘hole’ to look through, rightly or wrongly I’ve been sighting things up with it. I won’t know if it’s an accurate method until I buy the gear!
     
  11. tenchy

    tenchy Rain maker Administrator

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    nice one, and I like Sean's upgrade!
     
  12. Paul K

    Paul K Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    If you follow Chaz's link it even gives you one with thirds on it!

    Hopefully it will help someone
     

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