Twin Lens Reflex Photography Guide

Last Updated on April 15, 2021

postcards and twin reflex lens camera

What Is Twin Lens Reflex Photography?

Twin lens reflex photography is a type of camera that produces one direct image and one indirect. This is accomplished by placing the camera’s reflex mirror at 45 degrees to the lens axis. The indirect image is a virtual representation of what the lens sees, but upside down. Sounds complicated, but it’s not really! If you’re interested in taking up this type of photography we have tons of tips for great results below.

How To Do Twin Lens Reflex Photography

A twin lens reflex camera has two lenses to it: the objective lens, through which light from the subject passes, and the viewing lens, through which the photographer views the subject. The output of a twin lens reflex camera is one direct image and one indirect.

The direct image is taken from the objective lens and essentially represents what we see with our own eyes. The indirect image is produced from the viewing lens and is a virtual representation of what the objective lens sees.

To use a twin reflex lens you just need to make sure that your camera, and its lenses, are set up for double exposure.

Step 1: Prepare Your Camera

To do twin lens reflex photography with your own SLR camera you will need to make sure that your camera and its lenses are set up for double exposure. This means that your camera needs to be set up to produce two exposures, or frames, per shot. All of your lenses need to be compatible with this as well. Most modern cameras and lenses can produce two frames per shot, but you should check the user’s manual if you’re unsure.

Step 2: Select Your Lens

Once you have your camera set up for double exposure, you will need to set it to take a picture twice, or two shots per shot. Start by pressing the shutter button on your camera until it goes into “P” or “Bulb” mode. Once it’s in this mode, you will be able to see the shutter speed settings on your camera’s display screen.

You will need to set the shutter speed to take two frames per shot. Most cameras have a 2 second or 2 frame option that should work well. If it doesn’t, try one of these other common options: 1s, 1f, ½s and 6f are four common shutter speeds for double exposure on SLR cameras. There is no one speed that works best; it’s up to you to decide which one you’ll use.

Step 3: Turn On Your Viewing Lens

All that remains to do is to turn on your viewing lens. You should be able to select a number of different lenses for viewing, but the most common is the reversing ring or the R-ring. It will most likely look just like a filter, except it will have a red line in the center. This is the line you will have to match up with the red dot on your lens.

Be sure to look through your camera and make sure that the red lines align. If they do, you’re ready to take some double exposure pictures!

Step 4: Set Up Your Camera For Composition And Exposure

Now that your camera is set up for doing twin lens reflex photography, it’s time to compose and expose your shot. To compose your image all you need to do is select the lens that you’ll use for your second exposure, then set the focus so that everything in your frame is in focus. All of this can be done by looking through the viewfinder, which you may not be used to, but it’s actually pretty common to shoot with a camera using double exposure.

The hardest thing about double exposure is setting the exposure. This can take a bit of time to get used to, so just keep practicing and you’ll be able to do it in no time. Once you’ve set up your camera and lenses for double exposure, it’s time to expose the shot!

Step 5: Turn On Your Exposure Meter

To set your exposure, turn on your meter. You will need to select either manual or automatic mode. Most cameras have a switch that will let you select either of these modes. After that, just point your meter at your subject and press the shutter to take your first photo.

Step 6: Take Your Second Photo

Now it’s time to take the second shot! Make sure that both exposures are lined up perfectly, and then pick one and take it! Repeat until you’re happy with how the photos turned out.

Bottom Line

The twin lens reflex camera has been used to great effect since the early days of photography. There are tons of terrific images from the early 20th century that were produced with this method.

However, it’s no longer used as much as some other methods of photography. That said, it has an awesome look to it and can definitely produce some great results. If you’re interested in trying out this classic old school style of photography you can do so in a number of different ways.