How to Create Artistic Portrait Photography Backgrounds by Using a Video Projector
To create unique an artistic/creative portraits, sometimes it’s best to think outside of the box. In this case, the background for all of these images wasn’t seamless paper or muslin, it was light. Light specifically emitting from a video projector.
HOW TO CREATE ARTISTIC PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY BACKGROUNDS BY USING A VIDEO PROJECTOR
If you’re like me, and more of a visual learner, I created a complete “How to Create Artistic Portrait Photography Backgrounds by Using a Video Projector” video on my YouTube channel to show how to create this style of artistic colored gel portraits using a video projector. Feel free to click on the YouTube video below, for the detailed how video demonstration:
For many of my colored gel portraits that you can see on my Hypercolor Portfolio Page, I simply used seamless paper. This works great for moody solid tones, especially for shots with some motion blur where you don’t want a busy background that may become distracting to the subject in the frame. Well for these video projector background shots, I took the opposite approach. I wanted colorful and artistic abstract backgrounds to serve convey depth in the image, especially when adding complimentary colored gels to the subject/model to really tie things together. In order to achieve, this all starts by using a video projector as the background.
The ‘How To’ portion is fairly simple. Use a video projector to shoot background images onto a white wall, and have your subject stand far enough away from the wall for separation. Sounds easy enough, but there are some technical points to consider: 1. You will need a projector that is bright enough to project a visible image, even when quite a distance from the background. 2. You will also need a projector that can be off-set with enough geometry correction to not have an image that is too distorted and distracting. 3. You will also need to obtain images that will work well as backgrounds for your colored gel creative photography. And lastly, 4. Cost. It’s no fun to have a creative idea that is cost-prohibitive, so I also kept in mind the cost of this project tool. Let me start by tackling each point step-by-step:
STEP 1. GET A PROJECTOR WITH ENOUGH LIGHT OUTPUT/BRIGHTNESS (LUMEN)
For my particular projector, I chose the Epson 1945W. You absolutely do not need to buy this exact model. Buy any model you can find that has enough brightness power, or lumen. This Epson 1945W model can output 4,200 lumen. It’s not a 4k model, and that doesn’t matter. You really just want to focus on the brightness, and that is measured in lumen. The brighter the better. You just want a nice amount of light output to allow you to position the projector far enough away from the model, yet can still produce a large bright background.
STEP 2. GEOMETRY CORRECTION
For my lighting setup, I position the subjects/models dead-center, approximately eight feet from the background wall. That means I need to position the projector either camera-right or camera-left in such a way that the projected background image doesn’t hit the model, but is “sideways” enough to still produce an image that isn’t too distorted. Thus, along with the lumen, also look for the geometry correction specs of any projector model, when considering a purchase. NOTE: If your studio is large enough with high ceilings, you could also consider mounting the projector above the model (dead-center) and shooting down on the background wall. This would likely be an ideal setup, and would eliminate the need for most geometry correction, but this wasn’t an option for my smaller photo studio.
STEP 3. WHERE TO GET BACKGROUND IMAGES?
It’s very important that you don’t simply go to Google Images and just grab any image to use as a background. Why? Because those images are likely copyrighted by other photographers/artists and you will likely not have the rights to use them. Thus, be sure to go to web sites that specializes in free royalty-free images that can be used for both commercial and non-commercial use. There are popular sites out there that offer free-usable images, even for commercial use. Just as an example, here are some sites to consider when looking for usable background images:
NOTE: Be sure to always check with the actual license usage for each individual image you are considering using for this purpose.
So for my purpose I did searches for “abstract” and “neon” to find some images that might work well with this type of artistic colored gel photography using a video projector. Have fun! Try different search terms, and have fun experimenting with images that might work well. You actually never know, because sometimes images you think won’t work will actually do work quite well depending upon the theme and look of your shot. You never know until you try.
STEP 4. BUY USED
Again, to me, any fun/creative project must also be somewhat cost-effective. If you need to spend over $1k on a new projector to make this work, then it’s really not as appealing. However, BUY USED. Check eBay for used projectors. My Epson 1945w originally had an MSRP of $1699 when it was launched, and was discontinued 2017. So I purchased this Epson 1945w used on eBay for $130. Be sure to check used sites like eBay, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, etc. And once again, you do not need to buy this exact some model. Just get an HD model (not 4K) with a comparable amount of rated lumen for the output and you should be fine.
EXAMPLE ONE: TEAL/ORANGE WITH MODEL ANAIT
EXAMPLE TWO: TEAL/PURPLE/PINK WITH MODEL RIA
ENDLESS CREATIVE OPTIONS
As you can see from the shots above, the mood can change dramatically based on the colored gels being used and/or by simply changing the background images projected onto the wall. Since the background for these shots are all just light from a video projector, the possibilities are endless, and simple to change since you’re just clicking a button to go to the next slide. You can even shoot images onto the model for an even more artistic look for your photography. Much of this starts with finding suitable images you may want to try, and then just experimenting with the results. A video projector is a fantastic tool to expand artistic and creative portraiture, well beyond more traditional backgrounds like seamless paper or fabric/canvas. My YouTube video called How to Create Artistic Portrait Photography Backgrounds by Using a Video Projector has even more visual examples along with my lighting setup info to assist you, so please give it a view if you’d like to see more.
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Interested in a photoshoot? Just use the contact page here to email me with any photo session ideas you may have. If you are interested in portraits or headshots, I shoot professional portraits and professional headshots both outdoors with natural light and/or strobes, or in my San Francisco Bay Area-based photo studio with a wide variety of backdrops and lighting options for many types of projects. Whether you need fashion photography, portrait photography, yoga or fitness photography, headshot photography, an online dating profile photographer, beauty headshot photography, artistic extreme colored gel hypercolor portraits, product photography, modeling digitals for agencies, or anything in-between, I offer various packages for many budgets. I look forward to hearing from you. Let’s shoot!