Projector Photography involves projecting patterns, shapes, textures, or photos onto objects, people, and/or landscapes to create interesting effects and accentuate form.
- Lumens: 800 lumens when plugged in, 400 lumens on battery
- Native Resolution: 1280x800
- Contrast Ratio: 2,000:1 (this basically means that a white pixel with RGB values maxed out at 255,255,255 is 2,000 times brighter than the darkest black pixel with RGB values of 0,0,0.)
- Inputs: HDMI/VGA/AV/USB/Micro SD 🙂 (I prefer the Micro SD card because it remains inside of the unit, whereas USB protrudes out)
- Onboard Battery (90 Minute)
- Can project images onto surfaces 9 to 150+ inches away from projector. When the projector is X centimeters away from the projection surface, the projected image will measure as X centimeters in length, diagonally.
- Tripod mount on bottom of unit 🙂
- Keystoning: auto and manual, vertical only (I'll show you what keystoning is later on in the article)
- Manual focus only
- Dimensions: 8.3" * 5.3" * 3.1", small enough to fit in a camera bag 🙂
- Weight: 2.44 lbs, lightweight enough to confidently put on any tripod or light stand 🙂 Attach a Giottos Mini Ballhead to enable vertical orientation if using a light stand.
- Can read PNG, baseline rendered JPEGs (not progressive), BMP, and MP4 video files.
- No zoom, so there is no rotary dial for that
The M5 is the same thing as the M4 except that it is more rectangular, so it can be placed vertically on a table. The M5 is 100 lumens brighter, has 70 min battery, and is smaller.
Not all projectors are perfect, here is what I mean...
The Aaxa M4 does have the screen-door effect and is more pronounced when projecting images onto surfaces that are further away from the projector. The screen-door effect can be reduced by slightly defocusing the focus ring on the projector, however the projection is then slightly defocused.
The Aaxa M4/M5 projector could be improved in that:
- A gapless video looping option would be very useful, as well as the ability to display animated GIFs. (email them and tell them to update the firmware!)
- When displaying an image with a small resolution of say 4x4 pixels, it will resize that image to be 800x800. There should be an option that allows you to stretch it to fit screen (in this case 800x800) OR to display it as 4x4. (Email them!)
- Keystoning should be more expandable.
With all that being said, you can do some pretty cool stuff with this projector. Here are some ideas:
Techniques and Ideas
Projecting patterns onto humans, landscapes, flora, and objects all work well.
You can hook the projector up to a laptop (or tablet/phone) and use Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator (or whatever else), live, in real-time, to draw light onto surfaces with maximum precision. You can do the same thing using animations as well. Just hit the F key twice to enter Full Screen Mode when you are in Adobe programs.
You can project a pattern onto a model, and have the model move around to create an interesting long exposure light painting abstract. You can also project a video of a moving pattern onto a model or anything else, and have them move around (or not) to create another type of long exposure light painting. Here is a long exposure of white dots/stars spiraling inward, with a model on the right.
You can take a long exposure image of a person walking in front of the projector a few meters away, walking from the left side of the projection to the right side of the projection while projecting a video where a white scan-line starts at the top row of pixels, slowly slides downward, and ends up at the bottom row of pixels. This is known as slit-scan photography. More information about this specific technique will be in the image pack.
You can use the projector as a light painting device for long exposures, being able to project any shape or color of light onto any surface, and be able to change the color of the light as it is moving at any speed.
There are projectors out there that are brighter and higher res than the M4, however they are larger, heavier, more expensive, and do not come with an on-board battery. Here is a comparison of the most relevant projectors that are 'better' than the M5 that I could find during my research. As far as I know right now, LCoS/SXRD technology (as opposed to DLP or LCD) reduces screen-door effect and eliminates rainbow effect, and using lasers instead of LEDs as the light source also reduces screen-door effect and requires no focus ring. Comment below if you know otherwise.
The instruction manual for the VPL-HW65ES states that it you should avoid aiming the projector up/down more than 15 degrees, for some reason, so that is a bit of an issue.
There are cheaper and smaller projectors available as well but they are not as bright.
Other than that, I have not looked into other projectors that could be used. If you have any specific recommendations for something you feel is better than the M5, feel free to leave the name of the projector down below in the comments and a reason or two of why it is good/better.
If you don't have $500....
A gobo is a physical stencil or template slotted inside, or placed in front of, a lighting source, used to control the shape of emitted light. You can make the shadows of the projection sharper by making the lightsource smaller in relation to the gobo stencil, use non-diffused light sources, and/or increase the distance of the gobo from the light source. Miniature krypton light bulbs that are used in Maglites can produce extremely sharp shadows because the light source is so small. Non-diffused tungsten light bulbs can also be used and create decently sharp shadows.
The Light Blaster is a type of gobo/light combo system that converts your portable speedlight flash into a slide projector. I prefer the Aaxa M4 because of the unlimited amount of patterns and sizes of projections that can be projected, however a speedlight would be better if you wanted to capture highspeed images of say fog or rain, where you could see each individual particle very clearly with no motion blur.
Theoretical Features the Ideal Projector Would Have....
- have an on-board battery
- have the ability to quickly manually adjust the lumens output by rotating a physical knob on the projector
- have no screen-door effect
- have a greater contrast ratio so that blacks render with no noticeable illumination
- have at least 1080p native resolution - 1080p is more standardized and inclusive than 1280x800.
- have no rainbow-effect
- have no chromatic aberration ie. uses a lens that has no chromatic aberration. A projector that could accept DSLR lenses would be very, very cool. I would want to try mounting a circular fisheye to the projector and get a full 180 degree spread projection, or a macro lens to project to project the finest details onto a very small object!
- be small enough to put in a camera bag (not as important, but still... 8x6x3 would fit in most bags)
- have 1,000+ lumens
- Be able to project infrared and ultraviolet light (just kidding... sort of)
I've created an image pack which contains hundreds of images/videos that can be used with the Aaxa M4 projector (or any projector, really). The image pack contains a variety of shapes, colors, patterns, half-tone patterns, slit-scans, and videos, all organized in their appropriate folders with the filenames titled for ease-of-use.
After downloading the image pack, simply extract the folder onto a micro SD card or USB stick, put that in your projector, and you now have hundreds of images to work with! Boom done!
The Projector Photography Image Pack should be able to be purchased here within the next few months.
To get notified when the image pack is released, enter your name and email here.
Projector Buying Guide: Broad over-view of projector types. Reviews all of the vocabulary involved in the second half of the article.
And that is that! The bottom line is, you can use this projector for all kinds of stuff! It has many applications for photography! Hopefully the technology will improve with time as well, and some of the features I listed out will soon become a reality.
A physiogram is a single long exposure of a flashlight spinning around on a string that is tied to a ceiling. You heard me, simply find a way to attach your flashlight to a string or shoelace or something, then put your camera on the ground with the widest angle you can get (after getting the light in focus, then switching the focus off), turn out the light, turn on the flashlight, give it a good push, then take a long exposure of the physiogram. You can also achieve different kinds of effects by zooming in and out, or focusing in and out while the exposure is taking place. You can also use different colored lights, and blend them later in Photoshop. When you take the photo, I recommend using a 30 second (the maximum shutter time on most DSLR cameras, unfortunately) exposure, or, if you have a BULB mode on your camera, you can use that.
Examples of Physiography:
This last image was manipulated later on a computer.
You could theoretically create a physiogram with a sparkler too. Yep, a firework SPARKLER. How awesome would that be? I haven't done it before, however the idea would be to put your camera on the ground facing upwards underneath some protective glass. Tie the sparkler to a tree branch, weight it down somehow, and take the shot the same way you would take a regular physiogram.
You could also use a tripod pointing down at a mirror, with the light source above the mirror. This way you would capture the reflection, and you would be able to see through your viewfinder. I like using a wide angle lens and just putting my camera on the ground and taking the shot, however.
If your in a highschool photography class, this will totally flip people out. Most, if not everyone, will not know how you did it. At least that's how it was when I did it in highschool.
The Maglight Solitaire Flashlight is a neat little light that enables the head to be taken off, so it can be in "candle mode". This is great for physiograms and also any kind of light painting. You will definitely have an advantage when using it. You can easily change the colors later inside of Photoshop, or some other picture editing program by adjusting the Hue/Saturation and/or by creating a new layer with the blend mode set to Color, and then paint on that layer using a color brush.
The following content is an excerpt from the Trick Photography and Special Effects eBook. For additional content on IR Photography that has been reorganized, updated and revised, please consider getting the eBook.
These are infrared images; pictures with recorded light beyond the visible spectrum. You can take infrared photos by using an infrared filter that screws on the front of the lens, or you can convert your camera to take IR photos permanently.
Why Take Infrared (IR) Photos?
Infrared photography darkens clear blue skies a lot, but leaves the individual clouds very bright. Infrared photography leaves foliage (grass, plants, leaves) looking bright white. It allows you to take photos with longer shutter speeds, and gives your photos an awesome look in general.
Can my camera take IR photos?
Older Nikon cameras, like the Nikon D50 andD70 work very well with the Hoya R-72 Infrared Filter
. However, a lot of newer camera sensors now have a filter that blocks out IR light in front of the cameras sensor (to a degree). In order to find out if your D-SLR can take infrared photos, find a remote control that goes to your TV, or something similar. Take a 1 second exposure. During that exposure, click the power button on your remote, pointing it towards the camera lens. When you look at the picture on the LCD preview screen, you should see a light coming from the front of the remote. If the TV remote light looks very dim, the exposure time will have to be longer when using an IR filter. BUT, if the TV remote light looks pretty bright, your camera is well suited for infrared photography. Try doing this test with different lenses as well; some are better for IR photography than others. If you don't see anything coming from your remote, you won't be able to take infrared photos with your camera using an IR filter. You can however, get your camera's sensor modified by LifePixel. Conversion costs about $300-$500, and shutter speed times are normal, as is focusing. Your camera will be permanently modified for infrared photography!
But, if your camera passed the TV Remote Test, then you can go the easy/cheap route and start taking infrared pictures with the Hoya R-72 Infrared Filter. Mine was $54 for a 52mm sized filter.
Some lenses just don't work that great with IR filters and create hotspots. I myself however haven't had any problems with "hotspots" in any of my photogs before.
Taking Infrared Photos Using the Hoya R72 Filter:
When you get your filter, you will notice it looks almost black. Because the filter is so dark, you will need to focus your scene before putting the filter on. Once you have your scene in focus, screw your filter on, and then switch to manual focus. You CAN use autofocus with the filter on, but you have to be in broad sunlight for this to work, and it isn't always accurate....
Lenses focus differently when using an infrared filter. If you want technically sharper results, you can rotate your focus ring about 1 millimeter away infinite symbol (depending on your lens). Some lenses will have an infrared symbol on the lens itself, which is useful. Use that mark if it does. If it doesn't though, you'll have to play a little guess-and-check game to find the infrared focusing spot. You CAN use the cameras autofocus, it will just be slightly out of focus (I've taken many photos like this anyway.) Try a few test shots using the autofocus, you may find it acceptable. Also try using higher F numbers to increase the depth of field, that might help a little bit.
You also CAN take infrared pictures without using a tripod, but it is not recommended. You will need to use high ISO numbers, and low F numbers, and those usually are not good for landscapes. Just avoid all of that mess by using a tripod. Your photographs will look a lot more professional.
Now, if you haven't noticed by now, the Hoya R72 filter is DARK. This will substantially increase shutter-speeds. If you need shorter shutter speeds, you can raise the ISO number and lower the F number. I usually don't do much of that myself, though.
If your photos are coming out too dark, just bump up the EV until you are satisfied. The shutter speeds will be quite long when using the IR filter (depending on how sensitive your camera is to IR).
Setting The White Balance for Infrared Photography:
After taking some photographs with your filter, you may have realized that your pictures are completely RED. In order to fix this, just meter and set the White Balance with your filter on. Google "How to set white balance with [YOUR CAMERA MODEL]" for instructions, if you don't know how to do this already.
HOWEVER, a lot of cameras cannot set extreme infrared white balances in camera. If you can't get your camera to work, just shoot in RAW and set the WB later in post processing with a program called UFRAW. This method should work with any camera. UFRAW is way better than Adobe Camera RAW because it can set the white balance for infrared photography which A.C.R. can't properly do.
Editing IR Photos in Photoshop:
The popular look for infrared photography: have a blue sky instead of brown.
It's quiet easy to obtain this look. In Photoshop, go to Image > Adjustments > Channel Mixer.... Make sure the "Output channel" is selected on Red inside of the dropdown box. Type in 0 for red, and 100 for blue. Next, select the Blue output channel but selecting it in the drop down box. Type in 100 for Red, and 0 for Blue. You've just swapped all the red colors for all the blue ones. Feel free to experiment with other channel swapping variations, I've seen pink and yellow foliage before 🙂
If your foliage in your pictures look too red-ish, and you want them pure white like snow, you can easily desaturate them using Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation. Select Red (Alt+3) and then slide the saturation slider all the way down to -100.
I would also recommend darkening the levels a little bit. The 2 examples above was not adjusted for that, and it looks a bit faded.
IR Examples Chart:
Editing Infrared RAW Photos in Adobe Camera RAW:
If you want to set the white balance using Adobe products, you can download the DNG Profile Editor and then watch this video tutorial describing how it is done. But, like I said before, I recommend using UFRaw instead of Adobe products.
Using Two Infrared Filters May Get Better Results:
I have access to two Hoya R72 filters. I stacked them on top of each other and used both of them on my lens simultaneously. The results seem to have more color and depth. People seem to debate about this. What do you think?
Here is the video tutorial that goes along with this article. It isn't as detailed as the written article, but it has more infrared photo examples that this article doesn't have: