Shoot­ing with a pro­jec­tor with an easy and sim­ple diver­si­fi­ca­tion of your cre­ativ­i­ty. With it, you can project any images onto the mod­el and back­ground. So from a sim­ple pic­ture on a plain back­ground in a cou­ple of sec­onds you can get a pho­to that will cause a wow effect in the view­er. All you need is a lap­top, pre-select­ed pic­tures, a plain back­ground and a pro­jec­tor.

We explain how to prop­er­ly pre­pare for shoot­ing with a pro­jec­tor, what you need to con­sid­er and how to set up the cam­era and the pro­jec­tor itself so that every­thing works out exact­ly.

Pho­to: Eliz­a­beth Chechevic / instagram.com/chechevic_a

Shooting with a projector in the studio

— Choose pic­tures for shoot­ing with a pro­jec­tor in good res­o­lu­tion. If they are small, then instead of a beau­ti­ful pat­tern, torn pix­el “blots” will crawl across the mod­el.
— Please note that the pat­tern will cov­er the mod­el com­plete­ly. If the pic­ture from the pro­jec­tor is too dark or fine-tex­tured, “dirty”, the face will be hard to see. Pre­pare for the fact that the mod­el or the pro­jec­tor will have to be shift­ed rel­a­tive to each oth­er, choos­ing a good pro­jec­tion.
— The back­grounds for shoot­ing with a pro­jec­tor can be any­thing, but in order for the hero to be well read, images where there is not a huge amount of detail and there is “air” — emp­ty tex­ture­less spaces are suit­able. For exam­ple, inscrip­tions, num­bers, hiero­glyphs, lines on a plain back­ground. Land­scapes, build­ings, flow­ers, sky are also suit­able. These are not axioms, but only ideas — exper­i­ment!
— Ask the mod­el to wear plain clothes with­out col­or­ful prints. The main focus should be on the image of the pro­jec­tor, and an image that is too con­trasty will dis­tract the view­er’s atten­tion and cre­ate visu­al “dirt”.

The lighter the clothes, the bet­ter. White col­or is ide­al — dark shades “absorb” the pro­jec­tor’s pic­ture / Pho­to: Eliza­ve­ta Chechevit­sa / instagram.com/chechevic_a

— When shoot­ing with a pro­jec­tor, it is bet­ter to take fast lens­es, as the pow­er of the pro­jec­tor may be low. Suit­able optics with an aper­ture val­ue of f / 2.8 and below — f / 2, f / 1.8, f / 1.4, f / 1.2. The low­er the val­ue, the more poor light­ing con­di­tions the lens can work.
— Often the pro­jec­tor is the only light on the set. Third-par­ty pulsed or con­stant sources with high pow­er will not work here. Their light will inter­rupt the glow of the pro­jec­tor, make the pic­ture fad­ed and inex­pres­sive. Remem­ber how the pic­ture in the cin­e­ma dimmed when the lights were turned on in the cred­its in the hall. The same thing awaits us here.

So get ready to shoot at high­er ISOs. It will have to be raised to at least 400–800 if you shoot with a fast lens. If the lens is not fast, then the ISO will rise above 1000. This is bad, because it threat­ens the appear­ance of noise in the pic­ture.

It will sim­pli­fy the task and allow you not to bul­ly the ISO of a high-pow­er pro­jec­tor. It is believed that when work­ing with mul­ti­ple light sources, a pro­jec­tor with a capac­i­ty of 3500 lumens or more is suit­able. For exam­ple, the INFOCUS IN116BB pro­jec­tor has a pow­er of 3800 lumens.

But even a high pow­er pro­jec­tor does not guar­an­tee that you can safe­ly add light and start shoot­ing with­out think­ing. The strength of addi­tion­al sources will have to be select­ed so that it match­es the strength of the pro­jec­tor’s glow. Then you will high­light the mod­el, and the draw­ing on it will be clear­ly vis­i­ble.

— The pro­jec­tor also has a sharp­ness set­ting. Be sure to adjust it, oth­er­wise the pro­ject­ed pic­ture will be blur­ry. To do this, smooth­ly rotate the focus con­trol on the pro­jec­tor until you see the desired result. Every­thing is like with a lens on a cam­era in man­u­al focus mode.

Use a sin­gle-col­or (prefer­ably light) back­ground so that, like clothes, it does not daz­zle, dis­tract­ing atten­tion from the pic­ture / Pho­to: Eliza­ve­ta Chechevit­sa / instagram.com/chechevic_a

— As an exper­i­ment, try pro­ject­ing the image onto a tex­tured back­ground — cur­tains, a brick wall, a curved sur­face, draperies.
— You can project a pic­ture not only on a mod­el. If you put a pro­jec­tor behind the hero, you can cre­ate absolute­ly any back­ground with­out using chro­ma key and with­out spend­ing hours on post-pro­cess­ing! And you don’t have to think about how the pat­tern lies on the mod­el, whether it dis­fig­ures the face, whether it is clear to read.

At the same time, the mod­el can be illu­mi­nat­ed with any addi­tion­al light, with­out fear that the stu­dio light will drown out the pro­jec­tor. The main thing is that the pow­er of the pro­jec­tor and oth­er light should be approx­i­mate­ly equal, and also that the light intend­ed for the mod­el should fall on the back­ground as lit­tle as pos­si­ble.

Add smoke with a smoke machine and light up the mod­el from the back or side. Then spec­tac­u­lar rays will diverge around the hero / pixabay.com

— The pro­jec­tor has a para­me­ter — flick­er fre­quen­cy. Because of it, pho­tos may not be obtained at too fast shut­ter speeds. Focus on a shut­ter speed of 1/60 sec­ond or 1/30 for bud­get pro­jec­tor mod­els.
— Shoot­ing with a pro­jec­tor should take place in a dark room, since even the over­head light in the room will great­ly reduce the bright­ness of the pro­ject­ed image. Get ready that you may have to switch to man­u­al focus mode — in the dark, the cam­era may sim­ply not catch the mod­el.
— Cheap pro­jec­tors give chro­mat­ic aber­ra­tions in pro­ject­ed pic­tures. These are col­ored out­lines on con­trast­ing parts of the image.

The effect is eas­i­ly elim­i­nat­ed when con­vert­ing the source to Cam­era RAW in Pho­to­shop. It is enough to go to the “Dis­tor­tion cor­rec­tion” tab and check the “Remove chro­mat­ic aber­ra­tions” check­box — the pro­gram will dis­col­or the col­or bor­ders by itself.

— The larg­er the pro­jec­tion should be, the far­ther from the wall you need to place the pro­jec­tor. Some­times for a cor­rect result, the pro­jec­tor must stand 3–6 meters from the back­ground and beyond. There­fore, if you shoot in a pho­to stu­dio, the larg­er the room, the bet­ter.
— The pro­jec­tor can replace Gobo masks and many oth­er light­ing effects for you! For exam­ple, sim­u­late any shad­ow, spot­light beam, light falling through the blinds or a win­dow with a frame.
— In order for the pro­jec­tor to dis­play an image, you need not only a lap­top with images pre­pared in advance, but also an HDMI cable or an adapter that will con­nect the devices. Keep this in mind when prepar­ing to shoot.

Now there are also mod­els that even have Wi-Fi, which allows you to remote­ly con­trol the device and trans­fer images.

Conclusions. Checklist for the parameters of the projector and camera for shooting


— When choos­ing a pro­jec­tor for shoot­ing, pay atten­tion to what res­o­lu­tion it is capa­ble of deliv­er­ing. The opti­mal val­ue is from 1920x1080, like the Epson EH-TW740 pro­jec­tor, and high­er.
— The sec­ond impor­tant para­me­ter of the pro­jec­tor is its pow­er in lumens. If you do not have fast tech­nol­o­gy, take from 3500 lumens and above. For exam­ple, the InFo­cus IN119HDg pro­jec­tor with a pow­er of 3800 lumens. The pro option is heavy duty pro­jec­tors with a lumi­nous flux of over 5,000 lumens. With such devices, you can not be afraid to shoot with pow­er­ful pulsed and con­stant light — the pro­jec­tion bright­ness will not over­lap.
— Use fast lens­es that will allow you to get a bright pic­ture even with low-pow­er pro­jec­tors. The ide­al aper­ture val­ue is 1.2, 1.4, 1.8, but not low­er than 2.8. It is always writ­ten on the lens.
— The weak­er the light out­put of the pro­jec­tor, the high­er the ISO will be. When shoot­ing with weak pro­jec­tors with a pow­er of less than 3000 ISO lumens, you will have to set more than 1000, and with pow­er­ful pro­jec­tors, the work­ing range will be ISO 400–800 and less.
— In order for the image to be pro­ject­ed cor­rect­ly and not to turn into flick­er­ing stripes on the back­ground and mod­el, focus on shut­ter speeds in the region of 1/30 — 1/60 of a sec­ond.

If you’re going to shoot at home or in your own stu­dio, check out our detailed guide on choos­ing a pro­jec­tor.