Digital Portrait Background using a 4K TV

On this video portrait photographer, Joe Edelman shares a super cool idea on how to create any background that you like using a large 4K flat screen.

If you are using a ton of background for your shots than this idea by Edelman could be worth gold to you. The basic principle is super simple – instead of using a paper cloth or other physical material as background why not use a large screen, one that can display any background that you choose.

Sounds expensive, well it might be less pricey than you might think. Large 4K displays have been coming down in price considerably in the past few years and you can now get a 65 inch 4K TV at under $500 and a 75 inch at under $1000. In theory, you can even use a projector on a large projecting screen as long as you can place it behind/above/below your model (we didn’t test this one so feel free to try it out and let us know how well it works in the comments).

You will also need a good solid TV cart with an option to tilt the TV slightly downwards to prevent glare and of course a way to quickly display your backgrounds on the TV – the best way is probably a computer unless you are comfortable enough to play with a smart TV and some sort of supported cloud service (you can also use screencast from your smartphone which might be easier).

The beauty of this whole system is that you can make or download (and manipulate) any type of background that you like and it can all be done for free (there are enough free images and wallpapers online and you can always pay for using high-quality stock images if you really want to). Just make sure your images are sufficiently blurred and you are good to go.

A few things to note here. If you are shooting with constant lights (LEDs etc.) you should be fine as long as you don’t see a glare or reflections on the screen. The monitor should be far enough to give you good separation but keep in mind that with strobes or flashes you are going to shoot at slower shutter speeds (you don’t want to get bending from the TV refresh rate).

Having a TV on a cart can be a great idea but it has its limitations and you should keep them in mind. First a TV – even a really large one can only allow you to shoot headshots and at most shoulders and above. A full body and even half body is out of the question. You will also need to use a longer lens (typically above 85mm should work depending on how tight a shot you want to make and how far your subject is going to be from the TV).

We are certainly considering this concept not just for portraits but for product photography as well, especially when you have smaller subjects to shoot.

You can find many more helpful photography tips on our Photography tips section. You can also check out a few of Edelman’s previous videos we posted here on LensVid on this page.