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Chapter 19

Unlikely Situations

        Photographing a Television or Computer Monitor

        Yes, I know this is one skill you will probably never need. Never-the-less it is a good one to have. Should 35mm slides be needed for a presentation and for some strange reason the big bucks technology fails you will be able to step in and get the job done. (And yes, this has happened to me and I did get the job done.)

        If you are not skilled with the computer system do not take responsibility for it. This is especially important for mainframes , super computers , and UNIX boxes. These machines are not intuitive. If you are not a strong user keep a geek handy. Geeks can be good.

        You will need:

          • A room that you can make light tight that has a computer monitor.
          • A tripod

          • A lens of 100mm to 150mm or so

          • A cable release

          • A flash light

          • A pen and notebook

          • Glass cleaner and soft cloth

          • A roll of opaque tape; Duct tape is fine.


        1. Satisfy yourself that you have a completely light tight room.

        2. Determining Exposure:
          If you have an auto exposure mode on your camera simply let the camera determine exposure for you.
          For tricky images or those that are mostly dark you may need to get a close up reading on the bright areas.

            To obtain a close up reading. You will use a hand-held light meter. Without a light meter you will have to use your camera.

            If you must use the camera, take the camera off the tripod and determine the exposure by taking a close up reading and noting the exposure.

            Do not worry about an unfocused image in the viewfinder as you are using the camera as a light meter. The unfocused image will not affect the exposure reading.

        3. Note the exposure. Do not trust your memory.

        4. Composing The shot Put the camera back on the tripod and set up your composition. Composing the shot is something that must be checked with the lights on. This is because you will not be able to see, in the dark, the edges of the monitor nor can you see the edges of the camera's frame. And you want the image properly composed in the camera

        5. Make the exposure. For insurance make three shots of each image. One at the determined exposure one at +1 overexposure and one at -1 underexposure. It burns up more film, so what, do it.


        The camera's film plane must be parallel to the computer monitor. Here you must tilt the camera to match the monitor. Don't get crazy here. When it looks good in the viewfinder your good-to-go.

        The dark areas of the monitor cannot be lightened by additional exposure because they are not transmitting any light. Expose for the highlights, not the dark areas.

        Look critically for misspelled words, graphics that are busy or anything else that your trained photographic eye detects as needing improvement. Report any technical or aesthetic problems before you complete the job. Do not make the mistake of thinking that your customer is aware of the problems you see. You are the visual artist.

        Here's a check list:

        • Verify that the graphics are finalized and that they properly display on the computer monitor.

        • Verify the physical space available to you is adequate.

        • Verify that your room is light tight. The computer monitor that you will be photographing is reflective. If your space is not light tight, make it so with the duct tape .

          Should you not be allowed adequate facilities in which to work you must stop the job. When you turn out bad work no one will remember that you told them so. You will be blamed.

        • Clean and dry the monitor. Expect the monitor to be covered with finger prints, coffee, soda, pizza and various other glop. Programmer's just love to touch the monitor, especially when debugging a problem. It's a geek thing. To get a smile just ask them why they don't use White OutTM on the monitor.

        • Display the computer graphic on the monitor.

        • Turn out the lights.

        • Determine exposure.

        • Set up your tripod and camera, compose the image in the camera viewfinder, and focus critically.

        • Trip the shutter with your cable release. Should you not have a cable release use the camera's delayed timer. For an even more vibration free image lock up the mirror.

        Here's One You Never Heard of Before

        Focus On Nothing To Sharply Render the Subject

        This technique may work for you when you need to get two subjects in focus, especially when working within a few feet of the camera.

        If you focus on the near subject and the far one is not sharply focused.

        Focus on the farther away of the two subjects and the near one is not sharply focused.

        What to do?

        Focus about in the middle on nothing yes that's right. Focus your lens on nothing.

        Now stop-down the lens and using your depth of field preview button check to see if you can get both subjects acceptably sharp.

        This is an excellent technique that you will need when you need it. And that may not be often. But now that you know it you are ready.

        Go take the pictures that only you can take.

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 Chapter 18