Jun 26, 2018

Blender – How to Move the Camera

Both moving the camera and moving the viewport are simple tasks in Blender, once you learn how. Introduced as a free, yet powerful 3D creation suite, Blender remains a very popular choice for 3D printing enthusiasts. Here's how to find your way around.

Viewport vs. Camera

When working in Blender, some become confused about the difference between the viewport and a camera object. It’s understandable, since the viewport can be thought of as a virtual camera, and a camera object can be used as a viewport. Here’s what they are, and the differences between them:

  • The viewport is the main view that the user sees when they start Blender (as shown on the left side of the image). The viewport isn’t an object; rather, it’s like a window that allows you to look around the scene that contains your model. It’s part of the Blender interface, and is only there for development and viewing of the model. It doesn’t serve any major purpose in rendering.
  • A camera is something that must be added to the scene, or created. It’s an object within the scene, and is responsible for rendering the image. Specifically, anything it’s pointed at will be part of the rendered image. However, camera objects are not designed to be moved as easily as the viewport, and thus are not suitable for development purposes.

If you’re here to learn how to navigate your model, and aren’t interested in rendering an image from it, then a camera object isn’t necessary, and you can skip the next step. If, on the other hand, you want to position a camera so that you can render an image of your model, then continue to the next step.

Adding a Camera (Optional)

Cameras in Blender appear as pyramid-like objects, with a hat-like arrow pointing away from the base. The point of the pyramid is the rear of the camera, the bace is the lens, and the arrow indicates which edge of the lens is the top edge.

To create a camera, press Shift + A, and the ‘add’ menu appears. Either move your mouse cursor over ‘camera’ and left click, or use the up and down arrow keys, to highlight ‘camera’, and press enter. Voila! A new camera object is created at the 3D cursor. To switch to camera view, press 0 on the number pad.

To recenter your 3D cursor, press Shift + C. (The 3D cursor appears as a target, and defines where new objects are placed.)

Method 1: Viewport Controls (Viewport Only)

Note: This method of navigating works only with the viewport. Use a different method if you are looking to move a camera.

There are three main motions that one would use in the viewport: zoom, orbit, and pan. Zoom moves the viewport closer or further from the center of the scene. Orbit rotates the view around the center of the scene. Pan moves the entire scene across the viewport in any direction. 

  • To zoom the viewport, simply scroll the mouse wheel up or down while the cursor is over the viewport. Alternatively, you could hold down Ctrl + Mouse Wheel Button while moving your cursor up or down on the screen.
  • To orbit the viewport, hold down the middle mouse button while moving your cursor around the viewport. Be sure to start holding down the middle mouse button while your cursor is inside the viewport.
  • To pan, hold down Shift + Middle Mouse Button while moving your mouse across the viewport. Just like orbiting, panning requires that your cursor be inside the viewport before you hold down the keys.

If you don’t have a scroll wheel, or scroll wheel button, see the Blender manual for instructions on emulating the scroll wheel, also called the third mouse button.

Method 2: Direct Controls (Camera Only)

Note: Direct controls only work with a camera object, so don’t try to use them for the viewport. Though not the preferred method of moving a camera, it is still very useful.

After selecting your camera by right-clicking on it, you can either translate it or rotate it. Translating is the same as panning or zooming in the previous section. In other words, you can do both with the translate control. Rotating the camera tilts it in one direction, be it clockwise/counterclockwise, downward/upward, or left/right.

  • To translate the camera, press G while it’s selected. You can now move your mouse cursor to pan the camera. To zoom, press Z twice, and then move the mouse cursor to zoom. To pan left and right only, press X twice, and move the cursor. To pan only vertically, press Y twice.
  • To rotate the camera, press R while selected. Moving the mouse cursor rotates the view clockwise or counterclockwise. To turn the camera left or right, press Z, and move the mouse cursor.

If you want to align the camera to the current viewport view, you can do so by pressing Ctrl + Alt + 0 on the number pad.

Method 3: First Person (Viewport or Camera)

This is perhaps the easiest way to move the camera or the viewport. First person view allows you to “move around” using the mouse to rotate and the keyboard to “step” forward, backward, side-to-side, up, and down. These controls are similar to those in many video games.

  • To enter first person view, press Shift + F. You can press this while in camera view to move a camera object, or at any time over the viewport to move its view. While in First Person mode, moving the mouse makes the view rotate, as if you were looking around from one point.
  • To move forward or backward, press W or S, respectively. To move left or right, press A or D. Finally, to move up or down, press E or Q. You must hold these keys to move in the desired direction, as single key presses do nothing.

If the speed at which the view moves isn’t to your liking, you can scroll the mouse wheel up to speed up or down to slow down the rate of motion. Once you are done looking around, or you have set your view to your desired position, press enter or left-click to exit first person view. Your current viewport or camera view will be saved once you exit, and can then be moved using any of the other two methods.

Now you know how to navigate your scene in Blender, whether it’s through a camera for a render, or in the viewport so you can continue modeling at a new angle!

License: The text of "Blender – How to Move the Camera" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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