Enter image description here

How do I take a landscape shot with a mobile phone having part of the same landscape and the phone is also in the same picture?

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    \$\begingroup\$ It's not a photo, it's an artist's creation. \$\endgroup\$
    – Agent_L
    Mar 17, 2017 at 15:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ Wouldn't you just open the camera app in the phone and hold it in front of you camera? You'd need a light for the exposure of the hand, and there's no way the screen would be that crisp in real life, but what specifically are you having trouble with? \$\endgroup\$
    – JPhi1618
    Mar 17, 2017 at 18:20

3 Answers 3


If you want to do something like this, you need two phones. Take a landscape shot with the first one and display it on the screen. Use the second phone to take the shot you see. One challenge that remains is that the field of view of the second photo is narrow compared to most camera phones and narrower than the one displayed on the first phone. That can be solved by cropping the second photo. The second challenge is getting the blur in the background. Most camera phones use small apertures to get lots of depth of field. You may be able to get close enough to the first phone to blur the background. It might help both things to use an auxiliary lens on the second phone to increase the focal length, narrowing the field of view and decreasing the depth of field. I tried it and did not get that much blur on an iPhone 6S enter image description here

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for ignoring the fact that the OPs example is a composite and actually trying to answer their question. \$\endgroup\$
    – Octopus
    Mar 17, 2017 at 21:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think the point that it is composite is useful as well. The fact that one can tell it is composite says there is no simple way to get the desired photo. That got me thinking about how close I could get and what the problems were. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 18, 2017 at 17:17

This is a composite picture. They've taken two pictures:

  • The sunset photo
  • The hand holding the mobile phone - inside in a controlled lighting environment; there's no way the hand would have that kind of lighting on it if taken in natural light at the same time as the sunset.

They've then replaced the background of the "hand" photo with the sunset, and also pasted the sunset onto the phone, replacing the entire front of the phone with the image on a gradient background.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It also looks like they used Gaussian blur on the background which is definitely not how unfocused blurring works. \$\endgroup\$
    – Joey
    Mar 17, 2017 at 13:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ I would even go so far and say that at least the phone is CGI \$\endgroup\$
    – PlasmaHH
    Mar 17, 2017 at 13:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PhilipKendall: you can do that misalignment with CGI too ;) that phone is just missing any detail of the front side of any real phone. Usually beyond the cover glass there is something, LEDs, sensors, softbuttons, speaker, nothing there. \$\endgroup\$
    – PlasmaHH
    Mar 17, 2017 at 14:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ Thnaks a lot everyone I think I understood the technique I'll give it a try soon \$\endgroup\$ Mar 17, 2017 at 23:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Alaskaman I'm familiar with quite a few of the sites here, and on most of them, an answer along the lines of "it can't be done the way you think, here's how the underlying aims can be addressed" is valid and valued. \$\endgroup\$
    – Chris H
    Mar 18, 2017 at 14:20

If you're trying to create the effect as close to straight-out-of-camera (SOOC) as possible, probably the most limiting factor will be the brightness of the phone's screen. That will determine the approximate light level for the entire scene.

For example, I did a rough re-creation of the image using my DSLR and my iPhone 7, just looking out my window. The iPhone 7 has an angle of view approximately equal to that of a 28mm lens on a full-frame camera. So I used 28mm at ƒ/4 (the widest aperture I could use on the lens, to get maximum background blur). Here is the result when exposed for the background:

scene recreation (exposed for background)

Here's the result when exposed for the phone's screen:

scene recreation (exposed for phone screen)

Note that the problem isn't that the subject (my hand and phone) isn't lit correctly. Even if I had added light to illuminate my hand and phone, that wouldn't have made the image on the phone's screen any brighter. It would have washed out the phone's screen, just like when you try to use your phone outside under the sun (not in shade).

Therefore, creating this technique puts pretty strong constraints on what you can shoot and expect it to come out okay:

  • If your subject is landscapes, such as in your example, then midday shots in bright daylight will be difficult at best. In the middle of the day, look for cloudy or overcast days to create this effect.
  • Sunrise/sunset shots, as in your example image, should be doable. But if the sun is in your phone's field of view, it will pretty much swamp any detail that is presented on your phone's screen. You won't get see the dynamic range you were hoping to capture (unless you took an image of the scene with your phone, and quickly edited it to increase the dynamic range, and then "played that image back" while you took a picture of the phone with your other camera). Also, make sure your hand and phone are illuminated, perhaps with a reflector behind you, to balance out the strong light in front of the camera.
  • Indoors shots, such in Ross Millikan's answer, are perhaps the best bet. That's where you will have the most control to balance lighting of the scene vs. lighting from the phone's screen. Then the problem becomes trying to get enough distance between the camera and the background (to create enough blur). In that case, as always, the fastest (widest aperture) lens is recommended.

Aside from the lighting limitations, another limitation of this technique is the moiré pattern that results from using a digital camera to take a picture of an image that is presented on a digital screen. You can see this effect in my 2nd image: the grid and horizontal lines (most visible in the sky on my phone's screen, but it's actually all over the entire screen).

Note: This answer assumes you're trying to recreate as many of the parameters of the original example as possible. Because the image on the phone is just an in-focus scaled-down version of the blurred background scene, the main camera and the smartphone's camera should have the same field-of-view (or put another way, the same 35mm-equivalent focal length).

In instead, you wanted the phone's screen's image to just be an in-focus "keyhole" of the entire scene, your best bet will be to take an image of the "background" with your phone, zoom into portion of the scene that will be covered by your hand and phone when you take a picture of the scene with your 2nd camera. It will take a bit of manipulating the scene on your phone's screen and where you hold your phone in front of your 2nd camera. But if you do it correctly, you should be able to achieve an effect that is similar to the transparent computer desktop illusion fad from several years ago:

Work Transparent Desktop, by Jeff Stearns, CC-BY-2.0, from Flickr
Work Transparent Desktop by Jeff Stearns. CC-BY-2.0

  • \$\begingroup\$ "this technique puts pretty strong constraints" ... which is why it's usually done with compositing, as in the example. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Mar 18, 2017 at 18:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mattdm indeed. \$\endgroup\$
    – scottbb
    Mar 18, 2017 at 18:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ This suggests that something might be doable with HDR techniques - but the hand holding the phone would have to be perfectly still. \$\endgroup\$
    – Chris H
    Mar 18, 2017 at 22:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ChrisH I did mention "dynamic range", but I didn't imply high dynamic range. Certainly HDR could tried, but as mattdm notes, this is a lot easier with compositing \$\endgroup\$
    – scottbb
    Mar 18, 2017 at 22:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ChrisH Also agreed. Personally, the moiré alone is enough to keep me from doing this all in camera. The only part of the scene that's in focus, and it's screwed up with nasty moiré? No thanks. \$\endgroup\$
    – scottbb
    Mar 19, 2017 at 12:16

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