What is the best to take a photo of a Mac screen for a printed mailshot?
August 4, 2015 9:24 AM   Subscribe

What is the best to take a photo of a Mac screen for a printed mailshot? I need to take a photo of a Mac screen to be used in a photo for a printed mailshot.

When I take a photo with my entry-level digital SLR camera of my Mac screen (non-retina) display - lines can be seen on the screen which don't look great. I'm not to keen on using screen capture software as I want the shot to have an "authentic" feel (but not with very visible lines across it).

What is the best way to do this? Just borrow a Mac with retina display?
posted by jacobean to Technology (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you could post a photo to imgur that actually shows the artifacts you're trying to get rid of, I'm sure somebody here will be able to tell you how to avoid them.
posted by flabdablet at 9:29 AM on August 4, 2015

You're looking at an interference pattern, or moire.

The two grids of pixels - your dSLR's sensor, and your Mac's screen - are fighting.

This can be somewhat mitigated in Photoshop or Lightroom.
posted by tomierna at 9:36 AM on August 4, 2015

You're looking at an interference pattern, or moire.
Unless this doesn't apply to a retina screen for some magical reason, the bigger problem is probably the scanlines caused by the refresh rate and polarization of the screen. Those are thicker lines and will appear to move up or down the screen

Regardless, two ideas:
- Use Photoshop or the like to insert the screenshot into your photograph
- If it's moving scanlines, take several pictures and pull out the good segments from each one to layer over the bad areas
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 9:54 AM on August 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

As others have mentioned you could be looking at two different effects.

For scan lines try increasing the shutter speed on your camera - you want a long exposure (i.e. more than a few screen refreshes)

For moire patterns try adjusting the screen resolution on you mac to fewest pixels possible (i.e. largest pixels). A slight adjustment of focus might help as well.
posted by NoDef at 9:57 AM on August 4, 2015

If you set your SLR to a longer exposure time (at least several times longer than the refresh rate of your screen), it should average out those scanlines and look more like it appears to you in real life. For example, 60Hz refresh rate = 1/60 second per refresh, so set your camera to maybe 1/20 or 1/10 second exposure. You might need to use a tripod or otherwise brace the camera to avoid blurring from shaky hands.
posted by jeffjon at 9:57 AM on August 4, 2015

FYI, This is why advertisement fine print typically says "screen images simulated"- it is often easier to get it looking good/right by photoshopping a screenshot into the image. Perhaps if you take the shot with the computer screen set to fully white or black it will make it easier (set blend mode to Multiply?) to maintain the screen reflections etc that will maintain realism even after 'shopping in a screenshot
posted by misterbrandt at 9:58 AM on August 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Ditto misterbrandt: You're probably better off working the other way around. Start with the screen capture, and then edit it to make it look "authentic." You can even use a mockup template, like this.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:03 AM on August 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

If you just need what you're looking at on the screen, and not a picture of the screen and the computer itself, take a screen shot by holding down command, shift, and the number 4. Then click on the area you'd like to screen shot (the border of what you'd like to screen shot) and drag your mouse- release when you have it in frame. It will save to your desktop as a PNG, the highest quality form of digital screen shot photo which should suffice for printing. Editing it and shrinking it without losing quality is another story. You need to crop and/or shrink it and save it again as a PNG. You can use a free online photo editor like fotoflexer for that.
posted by Avosunspin at 11:28 AM on August 4, 2015

PlaceIt is a service specifically for putting screen shots into stock photography. IIRC, they'll add a bit of reflection to the screen shot to match the lighting of the device, giving it a bit of realism. But you'll also be stuck using their stock photography of the computer.
posted by Banknote of the year at 11:47 AM on August 4, 2015

To do this for real you need to use a tripod and a long exposure, like 1/15 or slower, so the shutter is open for multiple screen frames, which will average out to a coherent image. That's the short answer.

If this is part of a whole scene it is complicated but possible.
When I was a magazine photographer in the 80s, before Photoshop, I'd often have to shoot a portrait of a musician indoors sitting proudly next to a screen on a Fairlight or a Mac, with studio equipment in shot with glowing LEDs, and get it all to come out in one shot.

The solution is to use studio flash + time exposure, with the camera on a tripod.
Studio flash lights need to be carefully positioned so they don't reflect on the screen, set aperture for the flash part of the exposure, set shutter speed to something like 1/15 to 1/4 to give the screens and LEDs time to burn in too. The longer the shutter speed the brighter screens will be in the shot.

These days it's easier to take the scene, grab a digital screen shot png, then overlay that later in Photoshop, however it's still possible to do it in one shot in camera. Probably easier now that screens are flat LED backlit LCD, not curvey flickery CRTs.
posted by w0mbat at 12:15 PM on August 4, 2015

I've done what you're wanting many, many times in the past for advertising. And, it's always been done by Photoshopping a screen-grab (Command+Shift+3) onto a separate photo of the monitor.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:18 PM on August 4, 2015

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