Friday, 19 November 2010

Using the LCD screen of your monitor or laptop for photography with polarised light



I was stunned. Duncan flipped open his netbook, placed a plastic set square on it and held a polarisation filter in between screen and eye and voila! Technicolour against a black background!

The Milton Photographic Club had a ball for the rest of the evening with plastic cutlery, cups and petri dishes.

It is so obvious an effect that photographers have rediscovered the fact that LCD provide polarised light and used it for the fantastic colour effects over the past years. Here's one good reference.

This doesn't take away the delight at having a go as you can see from the slideshow above. Here's the challenge though, try finding other subjects than set squares.


The method is simple:
  • Open a blank document on your laptop to get a white screen.
  • Place a polarising filter on your camera (I taped a square of polarising plastic to the front of mine)
  • Hold a plastic object in front of the white screen and observe the colour effects
Rotating the filter on the camera changes the appearance of brightness of the screen, from white through to black, depending on orientation.

Note: we had laptops where the screen could be folded almost horizontal, so you lay subjects on the screen. TAKE CARE if you do this! I will not accept responsibility for broken screens.

If you want a coloured background
  • find a sheet of thin plastic, like cling film or large transparent plastic bags.
  • place over the LCD screen - its worth playing with layers at slightly different angles
  • Check the colours through a polarising filter
  • Rotate the orientation of the plastic and/or the filter to get a desired coloured background.
  • Then place your subject on top of that and try photographing
Where do I get a cheap polarising filter from?
  • Your camera supplier will certainly offer one for your camera lens for midrange and SLR cameras that can take screw or clip on filters
  • Or look for polarising sheets, 5cm x 5cm are standard sizes, available for £5 to £10 and affix temporarily with blutack or tape
  • Extract a lens from polarising sunglasses and use
  • Use one of the lenses from your Real3D glasses from your last 3D cinema visit. 
NOTE: with the Real3D lenses, it matters which face faces the screen. Try looking through at an LCD screen whilst rotating the lens. If the LCD screen turns black, OK. If not, flip the lens and look from through the other side, it should now turn the screen black when rotated.

Go and play! I promise you, the colours can be gorgeous.

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