Cameras in Blender

The one thing every Blender scene has in common is a camera. In Blender, cameras control how a scene is rendered. If we experience a problem with the final render, there’s a chance it’s caused by a camera setting. Cameras aren’t the most complicated of subjects, but they have plenty of settings to be familiar with. In this post, we are going to cover them all.

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Blender Camera Basics

Cameras in Blender are objects but they are a special type of object and are not visible in a render. They have no material properties and there is no Edit Mode for cameras. The default Blender scene contains one camera but we can add as many as we would like.

An image of the Blender camera.
The basic Blender Camera

Like other objects, we can move (G), rotate (R) and scale (S) the camera. Wherever an active camera points is where our scene will be rendered from. To add additional cameras to a scene, we press “Shift+A” in the 3D Viewport and find the object type of “Camera.”

To see what the camera sees we need to be in Camera View. The shortcut to enter Camera View is zero (0) on the keyboard’s number pad. When in Camera View, we will see from the camera’s perspective and an outline (rectangular by default) will display to show the boundary of the camera. To exit Camera View, press the middle mouse button and move the mouse.

Image of 3D scene in Blender.
Looking through the Camera View while working on one of my renders (check it out on Instagram!)

Multiple Cameras

When we have multiple cameras, one (and only one) will be the “Active Camera.” The active camera is the camera that will be used to render the scene. The triangle over the active camera will be black to indicate it is the active one. The triangles over non-active cameras will be transparent.

When using multiple cameras, we can switch the active camera by selecting the camera we want to be active and then pressing “Control+NumPad0” (Control and the zero on the number pad). This will set the new active camera and bring us into that camera’s view. We will notice the new active camera’s triangle has turned black to indicate it is now the active camera. We can also change the Active Camera with the dropdown box in the Scene Properties Panel or by right clicking the new camera and choosing “Set Active Camera” from the menu options.

Blender active vs inactive camera. Active camera displays a black triangle on top.
The active camera will display a black triangle over it.

Like other objects, the camera can be renamed. The fastest way to rename a camera is by selecting it in the 3D Viewport and pressing F2. A small box will appear where we can type in the new name and press “Enter.” This is one of the 50 Tips I cover in this BLENDER TIPS VIDEO.

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Locking View to Camera

We have an option to lock our camera to our view in the 3D viewport. We can find this setting as a checkbox in the Sidebar (the “N” menu) or we can use the shortcut “Control+Alt+Numpad 0.” This immediately moves the camera to our current view which is great for lining up our shot.

Blender setting for lock camera to view.
The “Lock Camera to View” option found in the Sidebar Menu.

But, as soon as we move, our camera will also move and that can be very bad. Use this, but remember to turn this off when we’ve got the camera where we want it (by repeating the action we used to activate it).

Camera Properties and Settings

A majority of the camera’s settings are found in the Properties Panel. When a camera is selected, a Camera Properties icon will appear in the Properties Menu. The settings will be slightly different depending on if we are using Eevee or Cycles as our render engine. If we are in Eevee, some of the settings will not be applicable and won’t display.

Camera Lens

The first settings are for the camera lens. There are three lens types; Perspective, Orthographic and Panoramic. Panoramic will only work in Cycles.

Blender perspective camera lens settings.

Perspective: This is the camera type we will probably use the most. It mimics a real world camera and the human eye because objects farther away will appear smaller than closer objects (hence, “perspective”).

Orthographic: An orthographic camera ignores perspective. Distant objects will appear the same size as close objects. While this isn’t how human eyes work, this can be useful for technical diagrams and there are a lot of abstract effects this can create.

Panoramic: The panoramic camera is only available in Cycles. There are several types of panoramic cameras supported and a sub-type dropdown box will appear when “Panoramic” is selected as the lens type. Equirectangular cameras capture an entire 360 degree view. These can be used to create 360 degree images. Other types include “Fisheye” and “Mirroball” which have specific, but rare, uses.

Focal Length: While there is probably a more technical definition of this, the focal length is essentially the zoom of the camera.

Shift: We can shift the lens of the camera along either the X or Y axis. This allows us to make small adjustments to the camera angle without moving the camera.

Clip: The “Clip Start” and “Clip End” settings are used to give the camera a range in which to display objects in the scene. The camera will not see objects infinitely far away and it’s also problematic to display objects that are too close to the camera. Any objects farther away than the “clip end” or closer than the “clip start” distances will not be displayed in the camera’s view. or final render If we are not seeing objects in a scene, we may need to increase the “clip end” distance. Avoid setting the “clip start” too small as it will cause glitching in the scene.

Blender camera sensor fit and safe areas settings.

Sensor: The sensor settings and size are advanced settings that perhaps a photographer could explain better. The sensor size can create the same zoom effect as the focal length setting.

Safe Areas: We generally don’t want important objects in our scene to be too close to the edge of the camera’s view. We can set safe areas for our camera that will display dotted lines while in Camera View. These are just guides to help keep the important parts of our scene from being too close to the edge of the view of the camera. These lines will not be visible in the final render.

Viewport Display Settings & Background Images

Background Images: We can turn on the background image setting and display either a background image or video in our scene. The background will be locked to the camera’s view. We can either place the image behind objects in our scene or in front of them and adjust the opacity.

Blender camera background images and viewport display settings including passepartout.

Viewport Display: Under Viewport Display, we can adjust the size of the camera but this has no functional impact on the camera (just how big it appears in the 3D scene). We can also activate several display options.

Limits will display a visual line emitting from the camera which represents the clipping start and end distances. This can help us visualize if objects will be too far (or to close) to be visible by the camera.

Mist displays similar to the limits but will represent the mist start and stop distances. Mist is a tool in the render pass settings which can be used to mimic fog effects during compositing.

Passepartout: This controls the transparency of the area outside the view of the camera when in Camera View. Turning this setting to one will make everything outside of the camera view turn black. Turning it to zero will make everything fully visible. I’ve found it helpful to leave this setting somewhere in the middle so we can easily identify what is and isn’t in the camera’s view.

Composition Guides: Similar to the “Safe Areas” we can view composition guides from Camera View. These don’t display in the final render but give us visual queues for composing our scene – such as the “Rule of Thirds.”

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Depth of Field

Depth of Field: Depth of field describes the distance at which objects in a camera’s view are in focus. Even if you didn’t know what it was called, you’ve most likely seen “Depth of Field” before in photos or film. It’s when an object or character is in focus but objects in the foreground and/or background are blurry. Blender can create this effect when Depth of Field is turned on.

Blender camera depth of field settings.

Focus Distance/Object: We need to tell the camera how far away the “Depth of Field” should focus. We can either do this by setting a focus distance or by choosing an object to focus on. We can use the “Focus Object” dropdown box or the eyedrop selector to choose an object for the camera’s focus. Objects closer and farther than the focus object will be out of focus and blurred.

Aperture/F-Stop: The F-Stop setting is what determines how blurry the out-of-focus objects are. F-Stop is a measurement in photography that essentially measures how blurry the out-of-focus objects are. The lower the F-Stop setting, the more blurred the out-of-focus objects will be.

Camera Resolution Settings

There are of course more settings and an important one is the resolution. Resolution settings are universal for all cameras in our scene and are found in the Output Properties settings. The default resolution of 1920×1080 is the standard high-definition horizontal video resolution. It’s very common but of course depending on what we are using our image or video for, we may want to change it.

Blender resolution settings found in output properties panel.

Resolution: We input the horizontal and vertical resolutions we want for our scene. Below this is a percentage slider which is helpful. We can choose to render at a higher or lower percentage of our resolution. A great use of this is to lower it to around 50% of our desired final resolution in order to test render more efficiently. Then we can crank it to 100% (or higher) for the final render.

Frame Settings: Below the resolution settings, we have our frame settings. We will need to use these for animations. Choose a frame range (when the animation rendering will start and end). Also choose a frame rate (how many frames per second will be rendered).

Walk/Fly Mode

An interesting thing we can do with or without our camera is to view our scene in Walk or Fly mode. To do this, press “Shift+~” (that’s the tilde at the top left of the keyboard). This will place us in Walk Mode by default. We can navigate our scene using “W,” “A,” “S” and “D” like in video games. “E” takes us up vertically and “Q” brings us down. We can point our cursor to look around.

The reason I’m mentioning Walk Mode in a camera tutorial is that when we are in Camera View (Control+NumPad 0) we can use this to fine-tune our camera positioning. We can change to “Fly Mode” under Navigation in the Preferences which works a little differently.

Final Thoughts

The camera isn’t the most exciting part of Blender but it is the one thing every scene will need. It can also be a point of frustration. If your render doesn’t look right, there’s a good chance you need to change a camera setting.

I hope this was helpful. I have other guides on my page and I update these when necessary. Also, my YOUTUBE CHANNEL has video tutorials you can check out.

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Published by Brandon's Drawings

I am a digital artist in Vacaville, CA. I originally created this site to display my own digital art. Now I also use it to teach others about digital art - mostly with the free 3D software known as Blender.

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