How to Make Your Own DSLR Viewfinder

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You’re walking down the beach on a sunny day and spot a sweet shot, but the sun is making it impossible to see anything, including the LCD screen on your camera!

Your sweet shot? Your friend’s head is chopped off, and you’ve focused in on a surly seagull. Not cool.

Fortunately, there’s a smart solution to using live view mode outdoors: a DIY DSLR viewfinder!

This crafty viewfinder is kinda like the DSLR equivalent of an old timey photographer using a cloak with a large format camera.

It shades your screen from the sun, letting you compose your shots 10x more easily. With a little DIY action, you’ll get the shot you meant to get from here on out!

Make a DIY DSLR Viewfinder

Why It’s Cool

write-smReasons why the live view mode is awesome:

  • Being able to step back and see what your composition looks like in a clean little frame
  • Seeing what you’re actually taking a photo of when you have to hold your camera away from you to get a hard-to-reach shot
  • Shooting video without having to keep your head attached to the camera
  • Not scratching the front of your glasses when pressing them to back of your camera.

The only thing standing in the way of you and live view mode? THE SUN. You shoot in the sun a lot, so this is a problem.

Professional viewfinders run a pretty penny – like, a few hundred dollars worth of pennies – and who wants to spend that kind of cash on one when there are so many awesome lenses waiting to be added to your collection?

We’ve got you covered. This DIY project is a simple, cheap way to recreate a professional viewfinder – all you need is a little bit of time and a couple of bucks.

FYI this project works for point-and-shoot cameras, too!

What You’ll Need

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  • Ruler
  • Pencil or pen
  • Black paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Glue gun + sticks
  • Exacto knife and/or scissors
  • Hole punch
  • ¼” thick braided black sewing elastic
  • 3.25% magnifying reading glasses
  • 8 1/2″ x 11″ piece of corrugated plastic board (cardboard, regular plastic, or foam sheets will work too!)
  • 4″x4″ black foam board

Step 1: Measure your DSLR screen and corrugated plastic

paper-sm First things first: you need to make sure your viewfinder-to-be is fitted to your camera.

Grab your ruler, and carefully measure the width of the LCD screen from one side to the other, taking care to leave a tiny extra on each side to ensure you don’t cut off the picture later on. Write the number down so you don’t forget!

Next, measure the height of the LCD screen and jot it down as well.

Take your corrugated plastic (or other material) and measure out a rectangular box in the center using the above dimensions.

Next, draw 4 flaps that come out of each side of the rectangle. Draw an ever-so-slight tilted inward diagonal line 3” long upward from the top left corner of the box. Repeat on the top right corner, and connect the two lines so you have what looks like a flat-topped triangle sitting on your rectangle. This will be one of four flaps that will fold in to make your viewfinder.

Repeat these steps on each side of the center box. You should end up with 4 flap shapes on each side.

Step 2: Cut that sucker out!

cut-sm Grab your Exacto knife, and carefully cut around the outline of the flaps.

Next, cut out the original rectangle you drew which sits at the center of the flaps. Take care to make sure the flaps remain attached to one another once you’re done.

At this point, it’s probably a good idea to test fold the sides up and hold the cut-out hole up to your LCD screen to make sure it fits over it just right.

Step 3: Paint it Black

glue-sm Grab your paint and brush, and paint both sides of your viewfinder black – you might need two or three coats, depending on the type of paint you’re using. Set it aside to dry.

Step 4: Glue it all together

paint-sm Once the paint has completely dried, plug in and heat up your glue gun. Carefully squeeze a line of glue out on one edge of a plastic flap, and fold the neighboring flap up until they touch.

Press the two together firmly until the glue is dry.

Continue gluing each flap until you have all four connected in a three dimensional box, then set it aside for a few seconds to fully let the glue harden. You might need to touch up a few areas with glue if there are any holes in your handiwork to ensure the viewfinder’s seal is strong enough to stay glued together.

Step 5: Prep the lens

paint-smYou’ll now prep a lens that will go on the viewing end of your viewfinder. This’ll give you a magnified view of your LCD screen when you’re looking through.

Take the smaller end of your viewfinder (this will be what you’ll look through), and place it on top of your black foam board. Carefully trace the outline of the end onto the foam. Cut out the shape that you drew.

Next, pop one of the lenses out of the reading glasses.

Press the lens onto the foam to make an imprint. Use your Exacto knife to cut out a hole in the shape of the lens.

Step 6: Glue the lens onto the viewfinder

spine-sm Grab your glue gun and carefully glue the lens to the foam sheet.

Press firmly until the glue is dry. Again, check for holes in the glue and fill in any missing bits to ensure a good seal.

Next, take the foam piece and while making sure the concave part of the glass is facing outwards — the same way you would wear the glasses, glue the foam to the smaller end of the viewfinder body. (To differentiate: the larger end is the end that will fit up against your LCD screen.)

Press together until dry, and for the last time, check for glue-holes and fill any in accordingly.

Step 7: Add elastic

books-sm Now that your viewfinder is pieced together, you can attach elastic ties. This will let you slip the viewfinder on and off your camera whenever you need it.

First, you’ll need to use a hole punch to punch a small hole in the top left, top right, bottom left, and bottom right corners of the viewfinder (these holes will be on the LCD end of the viewfinder).

With the back of the camera facing you, place the viewfinder flush to your camera LCD screen. Insert one end of the elastic into the hole in the bottom left corner. Wrap the elastic up and around the front of the camera until it reaches the top right hole. Measure extra elastic for tying purposes on both ends, mark and cut.

Repeat the measuring of the elastic for the other side, this time starting at the bottom right hole, wrapping it up and over the right side of the camera and to the top left hole.

Tie the two elastic pieces through the holes and onto the viewfinder. Double knot the elastic to make sure they don’t fall off and snip any extra length off each knot.

If you’re worried about the knots coming untied, you can use your glue gun to place a blob of glue on each knot.

Step 8: Admire your handiwork!

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That’s it! Turn that camera on and attach your viewfinder. Now, head out into the brightest sunlight you can find and enjoy being able to see the screen while shooting!

Tips & More Ideas

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  • Reinforce the seams with black electrical tape or duct tape. This’ll keep evil sunrays out.
  • Loop the elastic ties around your camera strap so you can bust your viewfinder out whenever you need it.
  • While it’s best to keep the inside of the viewfinder black, you can go crazy with the outside – personalize it by making it hot pink, adding your name, or ModgePodging your favorite photos onto the outside!
Posted in DIY, Tutorials