Camera Position 18 : A Dull Picture of A Useful Object

Here is an absolutely dull photograph of an absolutely dull (and ugly!) piece of cardboard that is one of the most indispensible pieces of equipment in my camera bag. Temporarily diverting Camera Position from the examination of fine photographs, I look at a tool I use to help me make better images. By using this cardboard viewing frame, I get to examine subjects for potential photographs before I take the camera out of the bag. Once I’ve found the right place to stand, the string helps me figure out which focal length of lens to use on the camera. It’s a simple, but indispensible tool for making better images.

Jeff's Ugly But Useful Viewing Card

9 thoughts on “Camera Position 18 : A Dull Picture of A Useful Object”

  1. What a great idea! I have often used an empty 35mm slide to help me get an idea about framing an image, but I had never known the part about the string. Just to confirm, the string ‘trick’ works with 35mm format as well….so a 35mm frame held 100mm from the bridge of the nose will give you an approximate field of view as that obtained with a 100mm lens?


  2. Yep; if you size the cutout to be the size of the 35mm frame, holding it 100mm from the bridge of your nose will give an *approximation* of what you’d get in a 35mm camera photograph made with a 100mm lens. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty close. The best part is that you can use it whenever… keep it on the seat next to you in the car and make “compositions” when waiting at a stoplight or at a train crossing. People will look at you funny, but, hey… you’re a photographer, so you’re used to that, right?

  3. Well, I am starting to get used to it (the funny looks). Until recently all of my images were pretty much nature and landscape, and even if I met people in the parks and reserves at least it never really seemed so crazy to them that I was out taking photos. Recently, however, I have taken a bit of a new direction and have been making abstract type images of buildings, statues etc in downtown Pittsburgh, mostly on weekend mornings…I have now been getting LOTS of wierd looks, so now I AM getting used to it.

    Somewhat off topic, though, is that I had read in various internet photography forums about violations of ‘rights’ that have been happening to people trying to take fine art images in cities….never thought it would happen to me. So last week I am in front of a closed and empty restaurant that is in a big skyscraper and was taking a shot of an interesting logo on the restaurant window when the guard from the buliding comes running out telling me that I am ‘not allowed’ to take pictures of the building which, of course, is utter nonsense. Now I have one of these in my wallet…a very nice little piece of information that perhaps other listeners might be interested in:

    and download the pdf file called Photographer’s rights


  4. jeff would you please give a little more detail on making one. size of window and how you came up with what length on the string will equal the lens you want to use.

    thanks in advance and hope you had a great thanks giving

  5. Hi, Gregory;

    Cut the size of the window to the size of the camera’s viewing frame (i.e. the size of a 35mm image, the size of a 2 1/4 square negative, etc).

    Then, cut the string to the length of your various camera lens’ focal lengths (i.e. 50mm, 80mm, 200mm, etc).

    It’s not an exactly perfect equivalent to the field of view of your camera, but it’s pretty close.

    With digital cameras, it’s a little trickier, in that the size of the sensor varies a bit and so the focal lengths won’t be as easy to figure out. But… the proportion is still the same as 35mm in most cases. So… put the camera on a tripod, attach a string to the card, look through the camera’s viewfinder, move the card back and forth until you see more or less the same field of view as you saw with your camera’s viewfinder for a given focal length and tie a knot at the bridge of your nose.

    It’s not a “rocket science” sort of thing, but more of a “bucket chemistry” (what my high school science teacher called it… “take a bucket of this, add a bucket of that… see what happens) sort of thing. It’s just great to have something that takes away the camera and lets you see in a different way.


Comments are closed.