Here’s how to take a Polaroid picture of a phone or computer screen:
The key to a good Polaroid of a phone or computer screen is to control the lighting. Soft lighting is very important, and you want to consider a lower shutter speed to get better image quality.
Alternatively, you can use a Polaroid printer or third-party service to directly print a Polaroid of a digital image.
So if you want to learn all about how to take a Polaroid picture of a phone or computer screen, then you’re in the right place.
How Do You Get a Polaroid Picture of a Screen?
On the surface, this is an extremely easy process. Grab your Polaroid camera. Pull up the image you want on your phone or computer screen (which will mostly be referred to as computer screens from here on out). Then, snap a photo of what’s on the screen. That does work, but you’ll get mixed results.
Computer screens make things a little wonky for photography, so we’ll go over a few of them together.
When you understand why things are awkward, it’s easier to account for the strangeness, and then you can get a great Polaroid of your computer screen at will.
Get a Good Camera
When you take a picture of a computer screen, you create a few challenges for your phone. The image on the screen is made of pixels. Each pixel produces light that reaches your eye (or the camera), and that is how the image forms. This is different from looking at a real object.
With a real object, light is emitted or reflected down at the quantum scale. The sheer amount of visual information in a real object completely dwarfs what can be packed onto even the best computer screens.
What this means for a picture is that the screen doesn’t provide enough raw, physical information for cameras to take the best pictures.
You can compensate for this by using a high-quality camera. The more capable the camera is of capturing great images, the less the data disparity will matter in your screen photo.
The SX-70 is a classic and beloved Polaroid. It has been taking amazing pictures for roughly 50 years, and it’s one of the best choices for this task. It has sufficient control to allow you to adjust how you take the picture until everything is right and you are satisfied with the quality.
If you want something modernized, you can look into the SR 680. It’s a technological upgrade that still holds to classic Polaroid standards.
It gives you even more control over the specifics of how you take the photo, and that can be important for getting good images out of the screens you are shooting. Either of these options will do a better job capturing a screen on film than most other models.
Lower the Shutter Speed
There’s a second issue at play when you snap a photo of a screen. Even if the image on the screen looks static, the screen is constantly refreshing. The refreshes are necessary to show changes and movement on the screen.
Most modern screens refresh at 60 FPS or faster. That stands for frames per second, which means the image is changing every 1/60 of a second or faster.
A typical shutter speed for a camera is also 1/60 of a second. If the shutter speed matches the refresh rate on the screen, it’s very easy to snap a photo while the refresh is in progress. That will result in a lot of blackness in the image that makes it hard to read.
If you slow down the shutter speed of the camera, say to 1/30 of a second, then the camera can’t take an image of a refresh. It will always have a fully-lit screen for the picture, and that eliminates the darkness issue.
Don’t Use the Flash
This one seems pretty obvious. If you flash a light at a screen, the glass will reflect the light, and it can wash out the photo.
The best way to stage a screen for a photo is in a low-light setting. Avoid any type of backlight at all. Instead, you want to rely on ambient, diffuse lighting in the room. And, leave the flash off.
One of the best ways to achieve this type of lighting is with halo lights and other large LED light options. Instead of having a point light, the halo (or other option) spreads out the light source. This reduces glare while producing enough light to get a clear image.
You can put the light behind the screen you want to photograph, but at an angle. This is the best way to improve visibility without taking a direct shot of a light or its reflection.
Try the Polaroid Lab
If you don’t have a Polaroid camera, there’s an easy way to get Polaroid pictures of what you see on a phone or computer screen. You can invest in the Polaroid Lab. This is a printer that specifically prints out Polaroid photos. You get the classic Polaroid look and quality, but it meshes well with modern technology.
This printer can receive digital files and then print them. You can make a Polaroid of any digital picture you have, including screenshots.
It’s easy and depends on why you want a Polaroid of your screen in the first place. It will arguably produce the best quality.
Use a Third-Party Service
If you don’t need to print Polaroids on a regular basis, it might make more sense to enlist a third-party provider. There are businesses that will take your digital photos and print them as Polaroids. They then mail the pictures to you.
It’s like any mail-order print service, but the emphasis is on producing Polaroid prints. This can be a lot cheaper than buying a printer if you’re not expecting to need Polaroids very often.
You can find businesses on Etsy that do this. They will likely offer additional services to make the final product artistic and appealing. You can also Google for service providers that can match whatever you have in mind.
Why Bother With a Polaroid of a Screen?
There is a simple answer to this question. You want a Polaroid of your screen because you like Polaroids. It’s an easy way to get pictures you love into a medium that you love.
Most of us take pictures on our phones. If you have a favorite and you love Polaroids, why not snap a Polaroid of the picture on your phone screen? It seems like an easy solution.
That’s easily the number one reason to go about this, but there are a few other ideas worth considering. Polaroids aren’t just a nostalgic favorite. They bring unique elements to photography, and any of those elements can prove compelling.
They Are Hard to Fake
One of the great values of Polaroids is that they are very hard to fake. They were used to authenticate and corroborate stories for a very long time. These days, if you got in a car accident, for example, you can snap photos with your smartphone.
The problem is that digital photos are really easy to manipulate. Photoshop pros are amazing, and they can trick even the most discerning eye.
Now, a Polaroid photo of a computer screen is an interesting situation. The digital image on the screen is still very easy to manipulate, but the Polaroid print is not.
That means that at the very least, you can use the Polaroid to authenticate what was on your screen when you snapped the photo. Beyond that, you get diminishing returns for this particular advantage of Polaroids.
They Provide High-Quality Prints
This is especially valuable if you are using a Polaroid camera or the printer. Polaroids are high-quality photo prints. If you want physical prints of any photograph, you can get great quality from your Polaroid devices.
This is easy to see when you compare the average office printer. Sure, it can do a decent job, but the paper quality and overall image are typically inferior to that of a Polaroid.
If you want high quality without having to enlist a professional print service, Polaroids are a great way to go.
Tied to this is the fact that you don’t have to send your photos out to print them. You get quality and privacy all wrapped into one. For a long time, this was one of the main drivers behind everyone’s love of Polaroids, and it’s certainly a compelling reason why the medium still exists in the digital world.
Unique Aesthetics Are Valuable
Beyond liking Polaroids or feeding nostalgia, the photos are distinguishable. Most people can recognize a Polaroid at a glance, and if you are trying to do anything specific with the aesthetics of your photos, access to Polaroid photos is valuable.
This could have artistic applications. You can craft an image on your screen and then turn it into a Polaroid for all kinds of interesting visual effects. It can also have emotional or analytical appeal. Any time you can create a unique image, there is value to it, as long as you are able to find a way to make use of that value.