How to Make Your Photo Gadgets See-Through!

Extra photos for bloggers: 1, 2, 3

We’ve always suspected our camera was a neo-postmodernist.

Always subverting the establishment, our humble DSLR likes to challenge the limits of art and convention. We’d easily say it belongs up there with the best of Dadaism.

Now our camera has joined forces with our tablet and phone to throw our minds for an even more psych-optic monkey wrench.

By cleverly overlapping gadgets and photos, you can make picture-in-picture art that makes your electronic gizmos look completely transparent. Your meta masterpiece is waiting to be made!

Make Crazy Awesome Picture-in-Picture Art

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The Basics

beforeThe idea behind picture-in-picture art is to make it look like your electronic gizmos’ screens are completely transparent – so that your brain will think you’re seeing right through them! Whoa.

It’s pretty nifty, and easy to pull off too! And no, it doesn’t require you to cut actual holes in your expensive gizmos. Whew.

FYI, you can totally use digital cameras, phone cameras, tablets, desktop monitors, laptops or virtually anything with a screen for this project.

What kinds of things can you make with Picture-in-Picture Art? There’s:

For this tutorial, we’re just going to do a two-layer self-portrait using our iPad and iPhone.

Photo by Ben Seese

The Necessary Stuff

  • A camera
  • A gadget with a large screen (we used an iPad)
  • A gadget with a small screen (we used an iPhone)
  • Plain backdrop to take photos against, such as a wall in your house
  • A lovely photo-taking assistant

STEP 1: The Eyes Layer

before We suggest taking the photo with your non-phone camera, just so you can make it look nice and edit/crop if you need to.

Standing against a plain backdrop, have your lovely assistant Vanna take a photo of your eyes. Keep the photo closely framed, and if you need to, do some cropping afterward in Photoshop or your favorite photo editor.

Then, load this photo from your camera onto your small screened gadget. We used an iPhone here.

After that, open up the photo and display it full-screen on your small screen gadget. Hold it up to your face and you’ve now got a new set of eyes!


  • If you’re using your smart phone, you can always resize your photo by zooming in if you find your photo is a bit off.
  • Make sure your photos have consistent lighting.
  • You can adjust the brightness on your iDevices in order to get them to match the ambient lighting.

STEP 2: The Face Layer

before Next, let’s prepare the photo that you’ll display on your big screened gadget. We used an iPad here.

Hold your new set of digital eyes up to your face, with your lovely assistant helping you line things up with your real eyes. Then, with your regular camera, have her take a new photo of your whole face.

Now load and display this new photo up onto your big screen gadget (i.e. iPad).

STEP 3: The Final Photo!

before Hold your iPad or other big screen gadget, which should now sport a stunning new photo of your face, up to cover your actual face. Line things up, and make sure that your hand is positioned so that it looks like it’s holding the small screen gadget behind the big screen gadget, too.


Have your assistant take a new, final photo with your regular camera. Tada!

Boy, this final photo’s a real keeper, we say. And wasn’t that easy?

Of course if you want more layers—perhaps with different devices for each eyeball or facial feature, or if you just want to create a swirling vortex of optical feedback—then repeat the basic step above as many times as you need. Even more ideas below!

Can You See Me Now?

Credit to Daniel Bigler for writing this amazing tutorial. Daniel is an educator based out of the Pacific Northwest with a background in children’s studies and play.

Many thanks to photographer Dave Polette, who inspired this tutorial from his DIY Photography post.