Whether it’s sharing your work with a friend or coworker or simply taking a picture to remind yourself of something. You will one day need to capture the screen but those damned pixels, glare, blurs, and visible noise in the picture are making your images illegible and unclear.
When your cellphone tries to photograph your computer screen it gets ‘confused’ by the LED nature of the screen. The camera will focus on individual pixels instead of the whole screen. BY adjusting a few of your camera settings you can avoid this camera error.
It may be surprisingly challenging to take a picture of your computer screen but follow these guidelines so blurry shots and fluorescent flickers will be a thing of the past.
The Do’s of Screen Capture
The following will make sure there are no scan lines in your photos:
- Minimize the glare and reflections on your computer screen before taking an image. You don’t want any other light-reflecting onto your screen, because this will draw the camera’s attention and affect its exposure. Make sure your screen is set to be brighter or away from a window/other light sources before you take a picture.
- Manage the brightness of your camera by tapping on the areas of the screen in your image – cameras assume there are medium amounts of light in any shot so when capturing your device screen which has a lot of light it’s best to focus and control your phone’s camera more.
- Watch the shutter speed – with LED, CRT monitors, and LCD screen there’s a specific refresh rate that all the pixelated information is flashing. In order to avoid those grid lines appearing in the picture make sure your camera has a slow shutter speed – between 1/25 or 1/60. This means your camera will be able to capture all the flashing information because it has time to witness more complete refreshing cycles before the lens closes.
- To avoid random dots and round stripes, bring your camera forward and backward and refocus it. The camera is ‘getting confused’ by the blinking light and patterned pixels, it just needs to refocus on the whole screen and not an individual moire pattern or pixels.
- Correctly set your white balance – some images of screens can come out with strange color casts and this is because of the slightly hued fluorescent flicker in some screens. While you and I can see the computer screen as ‘white light’ the camera picks it up as warm or cold light. To fix this, focus your camera on the pure white or black areas of the screen (and correct the shutter speed) then this shouldn’t happen anymore.
The Don’ts of Screen Capture
If you do not want to produce visible noise and take a poor photo, don’t do these things:
- Don’t have your phone on a high shutter speed – All monitors have a refresh rate which means the pixels are flashing multiple times per second. You need to make sure your phone or camera is capturing the entire cycle of pixels when its shutter opens and closes. You need to have a relatively slow shutter speed to remove noise in your image. If you’re shooting on a digital camera set your shutter speed to 1/25, but if you’re just using your cell phone camera make sure your exposure is on its lowest setting.
- Don’t take the photo from far away – You’re not taking an environment shot, no one needs to see the borders of your computer monitor or the background of your office space. You just need to capture the single window you’re working on or saving. Don’t zoom in either, that will just cause a camera shake, move your camera and phone towards the screen. This will also help your camera’s exposure and depth of field, as there will be fewer light sources and areas of interest to distract your phone’s smart features.
- Don’t take your image in low light conditions – Cameras have default settings to shoot in medium light, if your screen brightness is on low the camera won’t be able to capture much information. Adjusting the exposure of the camera or brightening the screen will allow more light to come into the camera lens and therefore you’ll have better photos.
- Don’t share too much – this isn’t a technical issue just an etiquette rule. No one needs to see your entire desktop and start menu, just your active window with the relevant information. Your phone should be able to quickly crop your image with built-in editing tools if there’s any excess information captured. Moving your phone forward towards your active window will also help your camera reduce noise (those random dots and round stripes).
Don’t take a picture, take a screenshot
The best way to get rid of annoying pixels is to not take a picture of your computer screen at all. Taking a screenshot will allow you to capture all the important screen information without having to translate it to a camera.
Screenshots may be even more convenient to capture and share work with colleagues and friends – because you don’t have to switch to a different device, instead you press a few buttons and have the picture you needed.
Here’s how to take a screenshot on different computers:
Use the ‘print screen’ button on the top right of your keyboard. Holding Ctrl + prt scr will screenshot your computer. You can then click Crtl + V and paste the image into your Paint, your work emails or any local program to save it as an image.
But if you want to crop your screenshot to show just your current tab or window (not your entire monitor screen) press Alt + print screen. This is great for those who have multiple monitors and just want to share a specific window.
The previous Windows 10 option still exists in the updated OS, but now the Windows Key + Prt scr will add the screenshots into the folder Pictures > Screenshots.
Screenshots can also be backed up on OneDrive. Just open OneDrive, go to Settings > Backup > click ‘Automatically save screenshots. This way all your screenshots can be saved in your cloud storage.
Newer Mac models and updates have allowed users to take screenshots in a couple of ways.
Command + Shift + 5 will take a screenshot. This shortcut will only capture the window you have open at the time.
Another simple command to screenshot the entire screen is: Use your mouse to navigate to Launchpad > Other > Screenshot
Mac also offers options to optimize your screenshots and capture exactly what you need to. Press Command + Shift + 3 and this will capture the entire screen. Press Command + Shift + 4 to help you capture only the parts you have selected with your cursor.
If you press Control in conjunction with any of these shortcuts mentioned above, the screenshot will be added to your clipboard which will enable you to paste the image into any program or folder.
Google Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and Edge all support extensions that can take screenshots of your internet tabs.
If most of your work (and screenshotting needs) take place on a web browser, then extensions may be convenient ‘in house’ tools. Just download and add the extensions to your browser and you’re ready to start screenshotting.
- Lightshot – Free and simple to use with minimal features. Lightshot is also compatible with Mac, Windows and Chrome, Edge, and Firefox.
- FireShot – Paid extension ($4o-$6o) that can capture, edit, save and share screenshots on social media. Compatible with Chrome and Edge browsers.
- Awesome Screenshot – Free screenshot tool that can capture the entire screen or only parts that are needed. Available for Firefox, Chrome, and Edge browsers.
- Nimbus Screen Screenshot – Free for Firefox, Chrome, and Edge extensions – can capture all or sections of the screen then make edits and annotations.
- Page Screenshot – Paid extension for Firefox ($2.99) with adaptable screenshotting options as well as preview, editing, and saving features.
To recap, it’s possible to take clear photos of your computer screen using your phone. You just need to remember these key things:
- Take note of the shutter speed – if your shutter speed is too quick it won’t capture the full cycle of LED light
- Watch the brightness of your screen – if your computer screen is dim then your cellphone won’t be able to properly capture all the information into a photo.
- Take note of how far away from the screen your phone is positioned – this will help maximize your photo capturing and also remove distractions occurring in the background of your screen.
Remembering these three factors will help you master screen capturing.
But if this proves too difficult there are many screenshotting tools and shortcuts. These screenshotting tools will immediately remove any grid lines and pixels (since they aren’t photos at all). Screenshotting is also a way to quickly capture the screen without wasting time worrying about camera skills and etiquette.