Using a projection background is like being on location without having to go anywhere – it’s that simple.

In order to use this technique you’ll need:

  1. Camera
  2. Lighting
  3. Projector
  4. Background Image/Movie
  5. Patience

I think most of these steps are pretty straightforward, so we’ll cut to the chase — The projector! For this shot, we are using a very cheap projector. Mine is so old that it only has a VGA connection for its video signal. Just for reference, VGA was introduced in 1987 – yikes! Luckily, my VGA to DVI to HDMI converters all worked in a chain and allowed me to connect this ancient relic to my modern Mac.

Even more challenging, however, is getting the projector in place so that it fills as much as the background as possible without casting shadows. Again, this is not a sophisticated projector and it lacks a lot of the cool controls modern projects have, such as angle distortion correction. Instead, you have to get really crafty and pre-distort your background image in Photoshop so that when you project it at weird angles it renders on the surface correctly.

Here I placed it as far away as possible from the background screen (just a roll of fashion gray seamless paper) with its direction facing the opposite side of our protagonist so that the light from the projector could reach the background without hitting or casting shadows onto the main subject.

There are also two studio lights involved that I had to take into account as well. One is camera-left, filling the subject’s face with a faint green-ish light, and one is camera-right, adding an orange rim to the subject to match the light that is coming from the projected background.

The above image illustrates just how small my little studio space is. It is tricky to get something like this to work, but not impossible Getting everything aligned in just such a way that it will all work together is where ‘Step 5 – Patience’ comes into play. But, when you do finally get the stars to align you are able to capture images that might be otherwise too impossible or too expensive to get otherwise. Below is our final result.

Benjamin Lehman is a professional commercial photographer in the Cleveland, Akron, Canton, and Northeast Ohio areas.