How to Create Custom Photography Backgrounds Using a Monitor
When you’re shooting at home or in a studio, you might find that the backgrounds you have are insufficient for bringing your vision to life. For example, if you want to have a starry night background for your still life subject, you’d have to wait until it’s dark and clear before you can shoot outside. But we’ve got a solution (and it’s not green screen).
Did you know that you can create any background of your choice by simply using a TV or computer monitor? Read on to find out what you need and how you can accomplish your desired effect.
The Bigger, the Better
Whatever you’re planning to shoot, it’s always ideal to have a high-resolution, large, and curved screen. That’s because high-resolution displays look more natural in the background and allow you to work with bigger subjects. Curved displays are also a plus, as they’re better for bringing immersion to your composition.
If you’re working with small subjects, such as little trinkets, a 24-inch display would more than suffice. But if you’re shooting bigger subjects, such as dioramas, you’ll need a 43-inch display or bigger.
Display Type and Surface Matters
We highly recommend using a display with a matte surface for your photography backgrounds. If your monitor has a glossy screen, it can reflect the subjects and the lights, making it look unnatural.
OLED displays will be better than LED panels. That’s because OLED displays can deliver rich contrast and deep blacks, allowing you to recreate night the way it looks outdoors. A screen like the latest Sony QD-OLED TV will give you vibrant colors when shooting.
Be Smart With Lighting
When using a custom image on a monitor as a background, ensure that your subject’s lighting compliments it. For example, it wouldn’t make sense for the subject you’re photographing to have a low soft light falling on it, indicating sunset, when your background looks like high noon. Keep it consistent if you want to avoid your image looking unnatural and photoshopped.
Furthermore, you can use the screen as a light source. Let’s say you want to photograph a guitar in a dusk, campfire setting. You can put an image of a burning campfire in the background and use its warm, golden glow to provide ambiance for your photo.
Try to match the lighting you’ll apply to the subject with what’s happening behind it. Don’t use a bright, harsh, white LED lamp to light the guitar. Instead, use a soft, low-powered, warm light. That way, your key light and ambient light complement each other.
Create an Artificial Depth of Field
A distant background is typically shown as blurred and soft. This is due to a shallow depth of field, which allows the primary subject in the image to pop. If you’re shooting in a studio or an enclosed space, you can edit the background image to recreate this effect.
Using photo editing software, you can apply a blur effect to your background image. Then, display it on your monitor and place the subject in front of it. When you snap the photo, the background image will appear farther away than it is—you’ve just created an artificial depth of field.
Include Real-Life Elements
To make the scene you’re creating feel as real as possible, don’t hesitate to add physical foreground, midground, and background elements. You can add sand, rocks, or even plant life to make your image feel natural if you’re shooting it against an outdoor background image.
Alternatively, if you’re shooting an indoor scene, like breakfast cereal, you can set up your composition with napkins, spoons, forks, and other breakfast items, then use a photograph of a kitchen as a background. A quick search on the internet of a kitchen stock image will allow you to have the perfect breakfast setting.
It’s All About the Angle
When you’re shooting with a screen as the background, you don’t have to limit yourself to one camera angle, such as holding the camera at the level of your subject and then shooting it from straight ahead. Be creative with your camera placement.
For example, you can display a bright blue sky background on the screen, and then photograph your subject from a low angle to make it seem like it’s standing tall under the hot summer sun.
Alternatively, you can emulate the sky’s reflection on the screen, place the monitor under a transparent water tank, and fill it with water. Then, put your subjects on top of the (closed) water tank and shoot it from a high angle, thus making it appear as if your subjects are floating in the sky.
Your own creativity is the limit here—just ensure that you have a secure way of holding your monitor in place if you’re going to move it around, especially if it’s large and heavy, so you don’t drop and damage it.
Create Any Background You Want With a Monitor
If you want a custom background for your photoshoots, there’s no need to spend hours on setting it up or dole out big bucks to hire a spot. You can create an elaborate scene with just a screen. There’s no need to put a lot of time and effort into editing the background of a composition after the fact either, just pull up an image on the display, and you’re good to go.
With high-resolution monitors being more affordable than ever and finding their way into all of our homes, they’re totally viable alternatives for photography backgrounds. They’re even easier to set up than a real photography background, plus, the light they emit on their own will add ambiance to your final result.
If you’re thinking of using your TV or computer monitor as a background for your next shoot, refer back to this article and keep these pointers in mind.
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