Distorting the truth

Taking pictures of electronic screens is pretty tough.

If it is an interlaced scan screen (like an old tube TV) it generally causes a thick, dark line to appear across the screen because the camera’s shutter and the screen’s refresh rate are not synced. This gets even worse with film cameras (watch old movies with TV screens in them, you’ll appreciate how much work goes into syncing the TV’s refresh rate with the camera’s frame rate).

Modern progressive scan screens mostly avoid this problem because progressive scan draws the entire image at once, allowing a still picture to capture it perfectly. Video can still cause flickering images and other problems.

However, beyond the screen flicker, screens have two other huge problems, glare and color. All screens have glare when a light shines directly onto it, and modern screens are generally solid plastic or glass, which produces even more glare. Also, computer screens are usually lit by florescent lights, or LEDs. These light technologies create a blue light, meaning images of these light-emitting objects always have a blue color to them.

To reduce the glare and correct the color, we can use Photoshop to superimpose a screenshot onto the computer screen. A screenshot is an image of the computer screen that is stored by the computer that produced the image, so the only things in the image are what was on the screen. This means there’s no glare, and no color change.

First, take a screenshot of the image you want on the screen. Then open the picture of the screen and the screenshot in Photoshop:

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Next, drag the screenshot into the picture and resize it to about the same size as the screen. You’ll notice the computer’s picture is taken at a bit of an angle, so the screen isn’t perfectly rectangular. This is where the Distort tool comes in handy.

Before we use the Distort tool, we should reduce the Opacity of the screenshot so we can vaguely see the original screen behind it. This will help us position the screenshot.

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Then, select the Distort tool via Edit -> Transform -> Distort:

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Now that we have the Distort tool, we drag the corners of the image to match the corners of the original image:

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Click the check mark button at the top to approve the changes. Then boost the Opacity of the screenshot back to 100% BUT WAIT! There’s something funny about the screenshot:

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Notice how the screenshot is a bit darker and clearer than the actual image. If we want to make the screenshot look like it’s part of the picture, we have to make it match the picture’s quality. I used a little tweak on the Levels, a small Blur filter, and a very faint Grain filter to make the screenshot’s image quality match the photo. VIOLA!

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There you have it! A perfect looking picture of a computer screen.

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About cerrax

Butcher. Baker. Candlestick Maker. And world-class cheese. http://www.cerrax.com
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