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Interview with Cesar Sommer, a Professional 3D Photographer

January 4th, 2010 · 4 Comments · Shooting in 3D

cesar_sommer A few days ago Cesar Sommer was kind enough to share with us an HD video (720p) slideshow, showing some of his impressive 3D photos from different photoshoots he did in 3D. You can download the Stereoscopic 3D HD Video (3D Photos) by Cesar Sommer Photography if you haven’t seen it yet. And now here is a quick interview I did with him, that you might find quite interesting and informative if you are into stereo 3D photography or at least have some interest in Stereoscopic 3D in general. Also feel free to ask a question yourself if you are interested in more details about something that is mentioned here or anything else that you’ve wanted to ask someone with quite a lot of experience in 3D photography and in photography in general. And of course if you are in need of a professional 3D or not photographer you should consider using Cesar’s services, or at least if you are in Europe that is and not off to the questions and answers…

Can you briefly introduce yourself to the readers of the blog, who you are and what you do?

Hi Anton and the Readers of the Blog & thanks a lot for the amazing feedback and liking of my S3D photography :) and the interest! I have made an apprenticeship as digital image retoucher at art school in Basel, Switzerland. Which included a lot of background about, colors, spectrums, technical aspects of computer, scanning, printing and desktop publishing.

After education, I worked for 1 year on the job and then decided to open up my own company in 2004 which did end up in photography. Since I always liked to take pictures. Now 6 years later – I do a lot of advertising photography and also image retouching if it is required by the customer.

When did you first become interested in 3D photography, how and what have you used to shoot at first?

I think after seeing Captain EO 3D in Disneyworld around 1990 – I can remember there was a scene with a comet. 2-3 years ago I experimented again with S3D photography, I used there a digital SLR, and anaglyph glasses to see the effect. Then again time passed, and about 1.5 years ago I started seriously to shoot 3D content. For my first shots I used lasers – see my first “prototype” to align cameras to a still object.


For the “production” model I had to remove one laser, since i needed space for the flash system device and also depending which rig is used – the laser won’t align correctly, the perfect solution would be to have a laser going through the mirror/lenses and pointing exactly the focused point. Right know I use two rigs depending on the distance from the main subject to the camera. That means I have to assemble it before a shooting to a certain distance. And only use certain lenses.

What do you currently use for taking Stereoscopic 3D pictures, and then edit and view them?

I currently use two models of the very same camera in my case it is Canon’s 50D DSLR with fixed focal length lenses (they are also identical). The cameras are synchronized by special hardware/software to ensure they trigger at the exact same time (milliseconds) and sync to the portable/studio flashes (Profotos D4, B2, Accute2) it was very important to me of being capable to shoot with studio equipment to reach the quality I wanted.


I edit the pictures first in Photoshop – fine alignment of parallaxes and very simple corrections – its very important to shoot as good as possible, because any correction is double. Due different angle you cannot just copy the layer (Photoshop) and move it according to the parallax, if there is a pattern or something like that you would see it, when you look at it in 3D.

The most time consuming was to order and rename the pictures & review them concerning the 3D effect and in general making a selection that also works in the 16:9 aspect ratio, due to technical reasons I had to shoot some pictures vertical, so at the end I had left 1/3 of the actual image size. But still enough for Full HD.


Then I take them over to Nvidia’s 3D Vision Photo Viewer to see how strong the 3D effect is and if there is any ghosting, also make sure that it is also comfortable to look at. If not yet, parallaxes are re-adjusted in Photoshop. Again quality control in Nvidia’s 3D Vision Photo Viewer. As 3D monitor I currently use Samsung’s SyncMaster 2233RZ which has served me very well. I use two pairs of Nvidia shutter glasses, so I can show a second person or client the 3D work at the same time. But to have a Full HD solution would be perfect, as I have seen Acer is launching a Full HD screen very soon.


I hope that there will be soon a software to easily adjust the parallaxes “on the fly” while you can see the 3D effect to control it better and be able to work more productive an then again re-save the file in .jps or other S3D formats. Fuji’s Real 3D has implemented something like that in their camera – I actually bought Fuji’s Real 3D for upcoming shootings to record the making offs in 3D its not high resolution in filming, but enough for me for that usage.

How long does it take for you to prepare and make one 3D photo session, is it much harder and time-consuming compared to shooting normally in 2D?

The preparation varies most in the concept of the image/shooting, to have a good 3D effect you should at least have 2 distances. Main Object and something nearer or further away of it. Best 3 “layers” front, main, background. So when I prepare the shooting I look for a good location and make like a little storyboard to a theme, also gather ideas which effect would look great or could work good in 3D. The rest is the same as in a “classic 2D” shooting.


All the preparations take about 1-2 days. Thinking of a theme, looking for a location, making a concept storyboard, organization model and make up. The shooting itself is done very fast when the lights are set up, around 2 hours, shooting time.

Have you ever considered moving to the next level by trying to shoot videos in stereoscopic 3D or you prefer to stick to photography only?

I have considered to shoot video, but my main goal is always a “perfect picture” so actually right know the hardware for filming “just” got available to me to making that possible – digital SLR with the ability to film “moving pictures”. So if I have time next to my commercial shootings – I will move into that direction as experimental in the next 1-2 years – maybe sooner (short movie), but right know I have primary focus on S3D photography – since I still have some shooting ideas which I want to realize.


One of them is my fire pic, which I want to reshoot in 3D, since I want maximum realism its gonna be a hard one – either very good 3D CGI combined with real footage or composing various S3D images, which I think its gonna be easier. Since I only know CGI a little – maybe the local fire department will help me out…

A lot of people believe that 2010 will be the year of S3D, do you agree and what are your expectations?

Yes I agree – I think especially in the cinema sector 2010 will be the year of S3D. Since Avatar is making S3D more popular to the general audience and getting people back to cinema again. Also in the gaming sector a lot will change this year since it is much easier there to switch from 2D to 3D seen from the point of the content creator. In photography I think it will be “just” a start, with the FUJI Real 3D being available to consumers. A real boom will come when S3D SLRs will hit the market and autostereoscopic 3D picture frames with good quality are available.

S3D is definitely very fascinating and a real plus for images.

I hope you enjoy my pictures – more to come very soon, in February I will do some S3D shots again.

If anyone is interested in sponsoring for projects, let me know.

Best regards and a good start into 2010,

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4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Dave G. // Jan 4, 2010 at 22:57

    Great stuff, guys (Cesar and interviewer).

    A few thoughts from a fellow stereographer:

    I don’t recognize the hardware Cesar uses to get shutter sync. I use an SLR Shepherd on my rig, and to my knowledge that is the only product on the market that can get tight sync (using a split cable shutter release or RF shutter release only gets you to within 1/60 of a second).

    I assume he matches focus and exposure manually.

    I hadn’t thought of using the laser pointers, though. Nice touch! I assume this is to aid in setting the tow-in/convergence (I shoot strictly parallel, so I haven’t toyed with this yet, although I do vary the stereo base).

    I also haven’t tried synching up a flash unit to my rig, so it is interesting to see someone like Cesar who has pulled this off and achieved good results. But most of the stuff I do doesn’t require this, since I don’t do studio or location shoots (I mostly do landscapes).

    I’m also glad to see someone who can recommend the Nvidia 3D Vision system for still 3D photography. I’d like to be rid of my wonky mirrored stereoscope that I currently use to view images on my computer screen.

    Hopefully Nvidia’s system won’t just be seen as something just for gamers anymore.

  • 2 Cesar Sommer // Jan 8, 2010 at 18:12

    Hi there thanks for your feeback,

    Yes you need extremly tight syncing since studioflashes depending on the engery output have a durations (at least profotos B2) between : 1/7400 sec to 1/2200 sec) so getting all 3 things synced up (camera A camera B, Flashsystem C) is pretty hard – specially on very short exposure times.

    Focus and exposure is matched manually – and check the color profile set be identical either sRGB or AdobeRGB on both cams, white balance and ISO guide.

    Regarding the results i can really recommand using nvidias 3D Vision Kit it delivers excellent 3D. You then can still decide what output (display) you choose. Acer, Samsung, so on.

    Best Regards,

  • 3 Cesar Sommer // Jan 16, 2010 at 21:04

    Hi i want to complete and share here a information:

    On the latest version of Nvidias 3D Vision Phtot Viewer it is now possible to adjust parallaxes “on the fly” and resave them – which is a fantastiv feature!! Makes content editing much much productive and easier.
    That works for .mpo and .jps as well.

    Here’s a guide on it:


    Best regards, Cesar

  • 4 jaap // Jul 20, 2010 at 23:13

    very interesting article. “The cameras are synchronized by special hardware/software to ensure they trigger at the exact same time”. Can you tell me your setup. I will be shooting a photo documentary with two DLSR’s and maybe your setup will work for me too. Thanks a lot, Jaap

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