One of the Internet's latest memes is the transparent screen. You take a shot of the area behind your computer, then use that image as your wallpaper. It can end up looking great, as in this example from Flickr user Yohann Aberkane, but it takes some patience and attention to detail. You can find complete how-to instructions in our article "Make Your Own 'Transparent' Screens"; meanwhile, here are some examples to get your creative juices flowing. You should know that some of these images show actual wallpaper on laptops and other devices. In other cases, the image is purely a Photoshop creation.
iPhone on a Summer's Day
When you're looking to create the perfect transparent screen image, you must be patient. Flickr user Pancho (aka Steve Curtner) took the photo displayed on the iPhone screen with the handset's camera and then displayed it using the iPhone photos app. Curtner says that he spent about 45 minutes and took 25 snaps to get the image on his iPhone just the way he wanted it.
After that, he took about 30 shots with a DSLR camera to get the photo you see here. Then he uploaded the image to his computer, adjusted the color and exposure for maximum effect, and voilà: a transparent iPhone screen.
PSP Looking Glass
What you're looking at took about an hour of work, according to the photographer, Andrew Magill. This image uses a fairly standard technique for creating a transparent screen. First take two photos: one with your screens in the shot, and one from the same perspective but with the screens out of the way. A tripod or other apparatus to keep your camera at the same angle will help. If you can't manage that, try holding the camera steady and ask a partner to move the hardware in and out of the frame for you.
Through the Looking Glass
This photo by Graeme Smith shows off one of the most fun transparent screen effects you can try. Smith admits he should have spent more time on color correction in this photo. Nevertheless, he did a fine job of creating the effect of a hand reaching into the computer screen.
The trick to this photo, Smith says, is to make sure that the arm is physically in the first image, while the hand is pasted in from a second shot. Then after you've merged the two photos make sure you balance the image color so that both shots match.
Textured PlayStation Portable
This shot uses shadow and different textures to create the feeling that an alternate universe lies just on the other side of the PSP's glass. Thomas Novotny photographed a cardboard cutout of the PSP to create the shadow, and then he merged that image with a regular shot of the PSP. Overall, Novotny says he spent between one and two hours creating the final image.
It's amazing how creative people can be with transparent screen images, as this shot of a tearaway XP desktop by Mario Piccito demonstrates. Piccito started by taking a screenshot of his desktop; then he printed an enlarged version of the screenshot. Next he took a photo of his hand holding the paper with the laptop screen down and then scaled the image with his hand holding the paper to fit his laptop's screen resolution. After that it was a simple matter of aligning his left arm with the onscreen hand, and snapping the final shot with his right hand.
This shot was taken by Glen Luff for a photographic studies class in college. Luff used three pictures to create this transparent image of his HP PavilionTX 1000 tablet. Luff took one shot of himself holding the tablet laptop, then another without the device. Then he took a screenshot of his desktop background, and cut out the desktop icons and taskbar and saved that as its own image. After that, Luff simply cut out the regular screen from the tablet, and layered the three images until he achieved the effect you see here. All told, Luff says, the final image took about three hours to create.
Felipemusica may have a messy-looking work area, but this shot pays great attention to detail, with multiple cords behind the monitor continuing off screen in an unbroken line. It's worth noting this was his actual desktop background. Felipemusica's image is part of a transparent screens gallery on the French site, MacBidouille (Hard Mac).
Including a human subject in a transparent screen photo poses special challenges. Even more challenging in this case was the fact that the photo was another actual desktop background. MacBidouille user La Jobe says that the hardest part of getting the image to work was balancing the on-screen colors and lighting with the physical office environment.
Alexlop created this inventive glazed desktop by combining his desktop background with a photo-editing effect. To produce the image, alexlop took a photo of his laptop with the clamshell closed, and then another with the lid up. Then he aligned the two images as separate layers in Photoshop and created the glazed effect. After that, alexlop made the glazed photo his desktop background, and took the picture you see here.
The background you see is not actually on the laptop, but the shot by Flickr user swilsonmc is still fantastic. Swilsonmc created this photo by experimenting with night-time illumination techniques on a wintry evening at Provo Harbor on Utah Lake, Utah. The final image you see is a blending of three different photos taken with a Canon PowerShot S5IS.
The key to taking photos like this one, according to swilsonmc, is to control your camera's shutter speed, aperture, white balance, and focus manually.
Simulated Sims View
This photo proves that you can use just about anything to create a transparent screen effect. Christopher Crippen created this image using a simple shot of his BlackBerry on top of a Sims gaming guide. Crippen says that getting the shot was pretty straightforward. He snapped a photo of the gaming guide, made it his BlackBerry's background, and then snapped his final shot.
MacBook in SoCal
Flickr user Vaguely Artistic found this shot difficult to master. She had hoped to achieve the final image using the street as the Macbook's actual desktop background, but shooting the screen outside in bright light caused the screen to go black. So Vaguely Artistic had to settle instead for a Photoshop special. Still, it's a nice effect.
It may come as a surprise, but what you see here is not Flickr user Andrew Harding's desktop background. Instead, Harding merged two photos to produce the effect. Harding says that creating the photo, which was one of his first experiments using Photoshop, took about two hours. The key tip Harding offers to budding transparent-screen photographers is to use a tripod. That way, you can get two shots that use the identical angle, saving yourself some time when you edit the final image.
What was the first thing you did with your iPad when you got it home? If you were Chinese-language blogger and University of Illinois student Chengyin Liu, you immediately turned the iPad into a model for a transparent screen image. Liu says that the iPad's light weight and slim body made positioning the device easy. It's also no coincidence that Liu used a stack of magazines to take this photo. "I was inspired by the heated discussion about the future of magazines, and came up with this idea to reflect the connection between paper books and publications on the iPad," Liu says.
It may look deceptively simple, but this simple wall photo includes several details that had to be lined up just right. Macbidouille user Alexis Levy says that the key to this shot was adjusting his camera's white balance and turning off its flash. Levy's photo is particularly impressive since that is his actual desktop background, and the picture is amazingly clear.
Ready to try creating your own transparent screen? Then head on over to our transparent screen tutorial, "Make Your Own 'Transparent' Screens," which will walk you through the basics.