How is this acheived? (Photo of scene behind monitor as desktop background)

I am aware of the obvious/sarcastic answer to my question. “Step 1: Take a picture of what’s behind monitor. Step 2: Apply it as desktop background.”

What I want to know is the specifics - specifically how to work out the positioning of the camera to ensure that what is seen on the desktop looks correct.

I suspect it’s something along these lines…

Take picture with camera on tripod and monitor removed.

Crop to the part of the picture that occupied the space where the monitor was (being careful to crop very precisely - perhaps using another picture taken from the same point but with the monitor still there as a reference for where to crop)

Apply the crop to the desktop.

Take another picture of monitor with desktop applied… from same point as before.

The last one is optional (if you want a picture of the acheived effect. You might just want to look at your monitor with its behind scene on its desktop)

Sounds like you’ve figured it out…with trial and error.

Yeah I guess I did.
Since posting my OP I’ve had further thoughts…

One of my monitors sits on a pivot arm attached to my desk. It would be a lot of faffing about to remove the arm and monitor, so I had an idea… If I remove the monitor but leave the arm and wires in place… hold the wires in position with fishing wire (hard to see)… then take the picture…

the idea being that once applied I make it look like the monitor’s screen is the only transparent bit, and the arm is still there - attached to the back of the transparent area… and the plugs plugged into the transparent unit.

A challenge for another time though - not for now with less than an hour to get ready for work :slight_smile:

I think that there must have been a lot of tweaking and trial-and-error to get the pictures aligned with the real-space background.

Thanks for showing this.

Note that this photo optimizes the trompe l’oeil effect by the placement of the camera that took this photo (the photo on the web page, not the photo used for the wallpaper). If you sit in the exact same spot where this photo was taken, the fact that you have two eyes will spoil the illusion. The effect is very similar to anapomorphic drawings.

To take the photo that will become the wallpaper, the camera needs to be placed in the same position as where you expect someone to view the monitor, to ensure the proper perspective.

The one in that photo is trickier because the left monitor is not perpendicular to the viewer. You would have to use something like Photoshop to distort the photo so that the right edge is enlarged to compared to the left edge to compensate for the fact that the right edge of the monitor will be farther from the viewer.

Is it definitely an image set as desktop wallpaper, you think? Looks like it would be a lot easier to take a photo, place the monitors (with strong solid colour background) and rephoto the same scene, then Photoshop the two together to allow the original photo to show through the areas on the monitor screens where you want it to.

The reason I suspect it is not photoshopped is that it would be very hard to retain the desktop icons.

I had my own rubbish quick rushed go at the concept…

Getting the positioning of the camera isn’t really that tricky…perspective only depends on observer (or camera) location. The focal length of the camera may affect how much you need to crop, but for a given camera location the perspective will be constant. If you shoot from the same position, cropping more from a wider lens can result in exactly the same image as cropping less from a longer lens. But that fact also results in the (transparent) background only looking right from exactly one viewing position.

So the first step is to pick a lens (or zoom setting) wide enough to cover the monitor, and position the camera at the user’s head position. Take a photo without the monitor in place, and crop it to match the scene that’s blocked by the display.

I’ve done something similar for a little photo experiment—I made my iPhone’s home screen look transparent by showing my hand holding it. And in my experience, the hard part is not the composition, it’s getting the color balance and brightness to convincingly match the background. LCD displays may be pretty good, but they still don’t easily duplicate reality.

At first I thought those monitors are just the tft panel with the backlight apparatus removed. From this site, this is how a bare tft panel looks like.

But in such a setup, the white parts of the screen would look transparent. On the OP photo I can see some white icons and a white window and this wouldn’t be possible.

Then it came to me!

Messing around with taking multiple photos and moving the monitors is too much hassle when you can produce such a picture much more easily. Chroma key! The whole room is fake. The monitors have a green background and it makes a hole to the green-screen background.

It would not be that hard to retain the icons. Just take a picture with the monitors with a blue back ground and make out the blue. Just like blue screen movies.


Keeping the icons would not be difficult though. Just select them, use “reverse selection” and then apply transparency to rest of screen. The re-select them and apply less transpareny to them.

I agree – it would be much much simpler to do this as a Photoshop comp than trying to insert the image of the background onto your desktop and get the angles/lighting etc 100%.

It looks imperfect enough to convince me it’s “real”. For example, the edge of the desk, visible in the monitors at the bottom, do not match the real desk very well (alignment is off, and the color is a bit off too).

What about cameras mounted to the back of the monitors?

Even if it’s real and not Photoshopped, it’s a pretty flawed concept because:

  1. if anything in the room is ever moved for any reason, such as to be cleaned or opening a door to, you know, walk through it, the effect is ruined.

  2. if it’s viewed at any angle besides the exact spot that photo was taken from, the effect is ruined.
    A much cooler solution would be to have webcams (positionable through software like many security cams) installed on the backs of the monitors that feed a live video background to the desktops. Then, install motion sensors on the front of the monitors and write a script that moves the cameras to match the 180-degree counter position of wherever motion is detected from. That would solve both problems 1 and 2, in addition to being awesome.

Possible, but that’s the hard way. You also have to account for the view angle, which would be different from a few feet away.

I’d do it with two pix, one with monitors, one without, taken by the same camera on a tripod. Superimpose both images, one on each layer, then use Photoshop’s transparency function to include/exclude portions of each image as desired. Unlike some other ideas, this one doesn’t have alignment problems.

It might not be a practical idea as a desktop background, but it’s a neat thing to take a picture of.

I’d be quite appy to have a picture of my monitors with pictures of what’s behind them as their desktops.

This is actually a bit of a meme. People have been doing this for quite some time, even with multiple screens within screens. It’s easy to fake in Photoshop but that defeats the purpose. Here the Flickr group: Some will explain how they did it.

Some military tech firms are looking at this as a way of camouflaging aeroplanes - you have thin screens on the top surface which use images from cameras on the underside to show what’s directly beneath the plane.

Idea is that other planes (or satellites) above won’t spot them as easily.

Possibly one of these?

Although it does show a laptop…