Superimpose Monitors and Screens in Your Photos Using Photoshop

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Photographs of monitors, televisions screens, and laptops has always been problematic. The screens look odd from different angles. The glow of the computer monitor has an effect on lighting. You never seem to be able to get a good focus on the image. Rather than go through great strain trying to find a setting that works for both the image on the computer and the surrounds as well, this article will show you how to do it like the pro’s do: Take a picture of the object and superimpose the screen in post.

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Please note that the photo for each step appears directly below the step.

Step1. First we need the image we’re going to be superimposing onto the screen. In ads for laptops and televisions, they often use stills from a film. The stills are literally lifted from the DVD itself – they’re screen captures of the movie. If you take a lot of photos for Bukisa, you probably want a screenshot of what you’re doing like the one pictured here.

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Step 2. Open up your photo in photoshop. Depending on the look you’re going for, you may want to use a photo with the monitor off. In the picture here, the iMac was left on to help produce some glow and make the photo more natural. As you can see, the photograph looks alright except for the actual image on the iMac. That’s what we’re attempting to fix here.

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Step 3.
Paste the screenshot over your photo. Depending on the resolution of both the camera and the screenshot, you may need to enlarge your screen shot using Free Transform once pasted. To use free transform, go to Edit in the menu bar and click “Free Transform”. A rough approximation of size is all that’s necessary here.

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Step 4. We need to give the image a stable anchor point from which to correct the angle. In the example here, we’re going to line up the left hand side of the screenshot with the monitor. As we manipulate the screenshot to fit the iMac screen in the next few steps, notice that our left hand side always stays lined up like this.

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Step 5. Because the monitor in the photo is is at an angle, we have to change our screenshot to fit that angle as well. Even the most dead straight photos have a little bit of angle or perspective that will need to be corrected. Start by going into Edit in the menu up top and scrolling down to Transform. Click the “Skew” option.

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Step 6. Use the transform controls that appear boxed around the screenshot to alter the skew. The trick to making this look natural is getting an accurate angle. It usually helps to think about how you want the image to change before you actually attempt it. Here you might think to yourself, “Ok, we need to make the screenshot longer and thinner.” Notice that we are correcting the skew independent of the size. As you can see in the finished step pictured here, the size is still wrong. The image flies off of the monitor – that’s ok. What we’re looking for here is that the top and bottom of the screenshot follow the top and bottom of the iMac’s display. Another helpful guide is to note that there appears to be an equal distance from the edge of the display to the edge of the screenshot on both the top and bottom runoff of the screenshot.

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Step 7. After skewed, the image is still too long horizontally. The next step is to correct this with free transform. Again, click edit in the menu bar and select “Free Transform”.

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Step 8. Reshape the screenshot to fit inside the monitor. In this case, we just needed to drag the right hand side of the screenshot to make it smaller horizontally. Because we were careful to have equal amounts of runoff at the top and bottom in Step 6, the right hand side of the screen shot should now sit flush against that of the display in the same way that the left hand side has.

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Step 9. Select “Skew” one last time. To correct the upper right hand corner, drag the upper right hand portion of the box to the corner of the iMac display. See? It’s all starting to come together. I’m not just making this up as I go along.

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Step 10. You might have a little runoff around the monitor. Use the selector tool to draw a neat box where the edge of the display should be. Go up to the menu bar and hit “Select”, then “Inverse”. Press the delete key to delete the remaining runoff. We should note here that it’s better to have a little too much around the edges before this step than not enough. When you’re dealing with a TV screen capture you can be a little more sloppy, but because we were cropping a screenshot here we can’t afford to have the menu bar or dock cropped out. If you find yourself trimming off too much of the image, go back and try to be more precise with the last few steps.

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Step 11. Our iMac screen isn’t an exact parallelogram. Because of many different optic variables, the iMac’s screen will appear less then straight. It may bow up at the top or dip in places, and thusly our perfectly straight screenshot will need one last bit of manipulation. Click Edit from the menu bar and go down to Transform. Select “Warp”.

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Step 12. The warp tool is used to push around particular parts of the image. Move the transform box around to fill those last few pesky gaps. In the image here, we needed to force the top and bottom of the image to arc a bit, and the corners to stretch a little further.

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Step 13. Double click on the screenshot layer and select inner glow. adding a tiny bit of glow can help make the screenshot look more like part of the display.

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Step 14. You might find your screenshot still looking too perfect. Our example photo was a bit blue, so a slight color overlay was added to the screenshot to make it look more washed out and tinted.

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Step 15. For the purpose of demonstrating something in Bukisa, the image shown here was left a bit too perfect. A clear display is great for a how to article, but if you want your photo to look more natural you can dirty up the screenshot even more. Try blurring the image or adding a little bit of reflection.

Additional Tips

  • Finding the right level of distortion is a personal judgement call. If you don’t distort it enough, it will look completely fake. If you distort it too much, you might as well have left it the way it was in Step 1.
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