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Working on a thesis project and I wanted to know if anybody has any suggestions for taking pictures of a computer screen. I'm using a Nikon F3.

In my head I am envisioning a dark room with the computer screen being the light source. Would there be enough variation in the light/colors that you could still see everything on the screen if I did that?

My fear is overexposing the computer screen. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. At this point I am thinking of using a 24mm lens however I have other options too.

  • what film do you intend to you use for this session? – meklarian May 31 '17 at 6:21
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    @CarlWitthoft I don't understand. The "what" is clearly stated: take a picture of a computer screen. That doesn't seem unclear to me. The "why", while perhaps interesting, doesn't seem absolutely necessary. – scottbb May 31 '17 at 11:57
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    @scottbb Let me quote from The Data Munger Guru: "Tell me what you want to achieve, not how you want to achieve it." Currently we know exactly bupkis about the OP's project; in the interests of education we should help him find the best way to solve the root problem, not just a step along the way. – Carl Witthoft May 31 '17 at 13:01
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    @CarlWitthoft I like it. I don't disagree, broader context is interesting. But the "what you want to achieve" is clear: take a picture of a computer screen with a film camera. – scottbb May 31 '17 at 13:29
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    @MikeSowsun I believe the clue is part where he says In my head I am envisioning a dark room with the computer screen being the light source. So the screen is not what he's trying to capture, but a scene where there's a screen. – Roflo Jun 1 '17 at 16:29
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If you really have to, I suggest:

Dark room will reduce reflections. Ideal if image of screen must fill the 35mm film frame. Note that screen will illuminate anything in front, e.g. camera and photographer, which will reflect on screen as well. Wear black to avoid this.

Shoot first with a digital Nikon SLR with same lens to confirm exposure, before switching to film camera. Remember to use same ISO and do not use Auto ISO.

I had success shooting off a computer screen years ago using Nikon 55mm f2.8 Micro Nikkor.

  • Good call on the pre-shot with digital, however i get the impression using digital at all may be "out of scope" - so a light meter would be needed. – Digital Lightcraft May 31 '17 at 9:25
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    External light meters that have a very fast sampling period will probably be confused by the screen's flickering. The camera's built in light meter might actually be better here because it is 'slower', but even if it averages the dark and light oscillation, the reading will be too dark. – Michael C May 31 '17 at 18:21
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Bright screen in a dark room is a tricky, but not impossible lighting situation.

Shooting a digital camera in parallel to your F3 to have immediate feedback on your settings is a good idea (in the film days Polaroid was used for this).

Consider getting hold of a spotmeter to get the exposure for the screen right - it will be much, much more accurate than relying on your camera meter. If you do this as a school project there should be one around.

And pay attention to dynamic range. You can nail the computer screen exposure, but the surroundings will seem much darker on your shot than in reality ("dynamic range" of naked eye is much higher than both film and digital sensor).

  • It all depends on the light meter. External light meters that have a very fast sampling period will probably be confused by the screen's flickering. The camera's built in light meter might actually be better here because it is 'slower' reacting, but even if it averages the dark and light oscillation, the reading will be a little too dark. – Michael C May 31 '17 at 18:24
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Prepare your monitor

  1. Calibrate your monitor. Especially the middle gray. If you are using Windows look for an application Color Calibration and follow the steps.

Take a measure of a middle gray

  1. Prepare a gray reference image. Using Gimp or any application, prepare a big middle gray square. You will use it to take a measurement of the exposition.

You can use this (Middle Gray): https://jsfiddle.net/rd5ra3cm/1/show/ (This one can be tricky if the monitor is not well calibrated)

Or this (Check board) https://jsfiddle.net/rd5ra3cm/2/show/ But in order to take this as a reference, do not focus it perfectly and do not use spot measurement.

Overexpose this measurement by 2/3 or 1 stop.

  1. Use a low speed to avoid any flickering. So. You need a tripod.

  2. Measure the exposition and define your f-stop. Use a middle f-stop I would use f/8. This will give you a shutter speed of around .5s or 1s on ISO 100, but this totally depends on your monitor.

  3. Try to use a longer lens, 24mm will give you a lot of distortion because you will be pretty close to your screen. Try to use an 85mm, or 100mm lens. The longer the better. Of course you need to step back. See how much space you have.

Paralell to your screen

Align your lens and the screen so both, the front of the lens and the screen are parallel.

Dark room

  1. A dark room will not only help you avoid the reflection of the camera (or you) but also will render deeper black.
  • Is the monitor calibration really necessary? – Jindra Lacko May 31 '17 at 13:09
  • Yes. It is probably one of the most important things a photographer should do. But in this case, it is also important to have an accurate reading on the exposition. – Rafael May 31 '17 at 13:13
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    Generally speaking I agree, especially if the monitor is to be used for photo editing. But when it is "just" a prop for a photo op I would not be so sure... For all that I know the OP might be thinking of a B&W shoot. – Jindra Lacko May 31 '17 at 13:27
  • It does not really matter if it is B&W or color. A calibrated monitor should be a must in any case. Inclusive in an office environment. In a B6W photo of the monitor, this will give you more tonal range. – Rafael May 31 '17 at 13:32
  • A note on your underexposing of the checkered board: the checkered board is not 18% gray - it is 50% gray (half pure white, half pure black). Your exposure is about a stop off (2/3rds of a stop). – Jindra Lacko May 31 '17 at 13:52

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