Projectors and projection screens come in handy for a wide range of display situations. You’ll find use for them in many places, including home theaters, classrooms, offices, churches, stores, and cinemas.
While they are versatile in terms of application, projectors face certain limitations with location and lighting. Ambient lighting (especially sunlight) is the kryptonite of projection technology.
Can you use a projector outdoors in daylight? What type of projection screen is best for daytime projection? What alternatives are there for displaying in daylight?
If you want answers to any of the questions above, keep reading! This article explores the must-know of projecting outdoors in daylight. Keep reading!
- 2 Easy Ways to Make Projectors Brighter in Daylight
- 2 Alternatives for Daylight Displays
- Outdoor Daylight Projectors: 5 Factors to Consider
- Qualities of Ideal Outdoor/Daylight Projection Screens
2 Easy Ways to Make Projectors Brighter in Daylight
Projectors are best suited for dark rooms or spaces with controlled lighting. When you project outdoors in daylight, the ambient light interferes with the projector’s beams before they fall on the screen.
You can try, but it’s impossible to make your projector brighter than sunlight. Also, there is a maximum amount of light that individual projectors can emit.
You can make your projected image brighter by tweaking a few settings, including the light output mode, contrast, and brightness. Let’s break down.
1. Increase the Brightness and Contrast
First, adjust the brightness of your projector so that it projects pictures bright enough to maintain clarity in daylight. Make the adjustments outdoors, in daylight, to find an optimal brightness level.
Next, adjust the contrast settings to distinguish clearly between the light and dark parts of the projected image. A higher contrast ratio increases how much brighter than the blacks the white parts are, making it easy to see details in the dark parts of the image.
To adjust both settings, mount your projector in its designated spot outdoors and go to Menu > Settings. Scroll through until you find options to calibrate brightness and contrast.
2. Turn off ECO Mode
ECO mode is a preset brightness option manufacturers include in projectors to reduce electricity consumption and extend lamp life. While it has its benefits, it’s not ideal for outdoor projection because it automatically reduces projector brightness by about 20 – 30%.
In ECO mode, your projector is only 70 – 80% as bright as it can be —the result is a more washed-out image in daylight projection.
You can take your projector off ECO mode to maximize its brightness output. Switch to normal mode or select any brighter presets available on your projector.
NOTE: You can also improve projector brightness through maintenance practices like cleaning dusty lenses and changing old bulbs. You can also shorten your projection distance to reduce the scattering of light.
2 Alternatives for Daylight Displays
To optimize a projector for daytime display, you must find the ideal time to calibrate it and a viewing location that minimizes exposure to direct sunlight. Video calibration is not a simple task; if not done carefully or by a professional, it can become a slippery slope.
You need a projector whose lumen count is high enough for outdoor use, but these bright projectors are typically noisy due to a very active cooling system.
If you’d rather avoid the concerns above, you’ll love what comes next.
There are more convenient alternatives for displaying outdoors in daylight. Instead of a projector, you can use an outdoor TV or LED video wall.
1. Outdoor TVs
Outdoor TVs are designed for use outdoors and in daylight; they are great for patios and other outdoor locations. With an outdoor TV you don’t have to wait for an ideal viewing time or try to optimize brightness output.
For instance, this user initially set out to get a high-lumen projector for their patio, but after considering its limitations, they opted for an outdoor TV instead.
TVs emit light directly from their backlight onto the screen; the light does not travel over a distance, so ambient light cannot interfere with it.
Outdoor TVs emit between 1000 – 2000 NITs (unit of measuring TV brightness), and one NIT is equivalent to about 3.426 ANSI lumens. Hence, the lowest outdoor TVs are brighter than a 3000-lumen projector.
If you’re considering an outdoor TV, we recommend the SunBrite brand. They have a lineup of TV models for full-glare display. Also, their TVs have a weatherproof exterior and advanced features for better sound and connectivity.
NOTE: Outdoor TVs have limited screen sizes; also, they cost relatively more than regular TVs and outdoor projectors. For SunBrite TVs, the lowest price starts at over a thousand dollars.
2. LED Video Wall Displays (LED Panels)
LED video walls use LED panels for video displays. They have very high brightness levels, and each LED is carefully shaded to enhance contrast and optimize performance.
These displays are bright enough for outdoor use in daylight. You’ll find them in stores as digital signs, and the weatherproof models are used for billboards.
The main downside to LED video walls is that they are very expensive. You should only consider one for commercial purposes like advertising or large-scale entertainment.
Outdoor Daylight Projectors: 5 Factors to Consider
If you’ve decided to go with an outdoor projector for daylight displays, there are some factors you must pay attention to. We’ll explore each of them below:
Brightness is the most important quality of a projector for daylight use. Projector brightness is measured in lumens, which describes how much light a lamp (or other light sources) can output.
To counter the effects of ambient light, you need a projector that is brighter than the lighting in your display area. This means that you’ll need a projector whose lumens are higher than the sun’s lumens in daylight.
The intensity of sunlight varies during the day and is measured in lux (lumens per square meter). At its brightest (around midday), sunlight can reach 120,000 lux.
A projector lamp would need to emit hundreds of thousands of lumens to create images that will be clear in full daylight. Unfortunately, there are no projectors with a lumen output high enough to rival the sun.
We advise that you buy the brightest projector within your budget and find an ideal time to use it outdoors.
Sunlight has different levels of brightness throughout the day. Since projectors cannot rival the sun at its brightest, it’s best to use your outdoor projector when sunlight starts declining.
You can use projectors with 3000 – 5000 lumens outdoors at sundown and dusk. Unless it’s a cloudy day, it’s not ideal to use a projector outdoors between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.
3. Viewing Position
We understand that you won’t always be able to display in ideal daylight. Sometimes, you just have to use the projector at midday and that’s where positioning comes in.
If your projection screen is directly facing the sun, the direct sunlight hitting the screen will diffuse the light/image from the projector or cause distracting glares.
The projector beam and direct sunlight should not fall on the screen from the same direction. We advise that you position your projection screen so that its back is to the sun.
Diffuse sunlight is bad enough, so it’s a much bigger struggle when direct sunlight is hitting your projection screen. We advise that you set up your outdoor projector in a shaded location.
For instance, a patio is an ideal space for an outdoor projector. The patio serves as a natural barrier, protecting the projection screen from direct sunlight and providing a more pleasant viewing experience.
If you don’t have a patio, use blackout cloth to create a shade around your projection area and preserve picture clarity.
Depending on manufacturer, specifications, and performance, projectors cost differently. There are expensive projectors in the high-end category, mid-range projectors, and low-budget projectors.
Projectors with high-lumen outputs typically fall in the mid-range to high-end categories. Hence, they are relatively more expensive than the ones you use indoors.
Find a balance between lumen requirements and budget for your outdoor projector, because a super-expensive projector alone won’t guarantee good image quality during daylight hours.
Your viewing experience may still fall short of expectations if you don’t account for the first three factors; time, viewing position, and location.
Qualities of Ideal Outdoor/Daylight Projection Screens
An outdoor projector should be paired with an ideal projection screen. There are projection screens that do well in daylight and below are some factors that contribute to their performance.
1. Ambient Light Rejection (ALR)
Ambient Light-rejecting screens are designed to control and direct light reflection. Their design distinguishes them from traditional screens that reflect and scatter light in multiple directions.
These specialized screens use advanced technology to deflect ambient light, reflecting only light from the “source” directly to the viewer. They minimize external light interference and optimize image clarity in well-lit rooms.
While they are great for outdoor and daylight use, ambient light rejecting screens are expensive.
2. Screen Gain
Screen gain is a measure of how much light a screen reflects, compared to an industry-standard whiteboard. The screen gain determines if the reflected image is brighter than the image projected onto the screen.
Projection screen gain ranges from 0.6 to 2.0, and in special cases, even up to 4.0. A high gain value (1.6 and above) indicates that a screen is highly reflective and can display a bright image. Values below 1.6 are considered low.
For instance, if a projector with 1000 lumens projects onto a screen with 2.0 screen gain, the perceived brightness will be 2000 lumens.
When projecting outdoors in daylight conditions, we recommend using a screen with a high gain value for optimal brightness.
If you want to learn more about screen gain, check out our article on the best projection screen gain for home theaters.
Screen color plays an important role in optimizing daylight displays.
White screens are highly reflective with higher screen gains while black screens are more absorbent than reflective. White screens do better with brightness than black screens.
Hence, white screens are preferable for outdoor projection, irrespective of your projector’s brightness.
After extensive research, we’ve provided detailed explanations on The Best Color for Your Outdoor projection screen. Check it out!
Projectors deliver an immersive, large-screen experience. However, all it takes is some direct sunlight and your crisp, high-quality images become washed-out and unattractive.
To project clear pictures outdoors, you need a very bright projector to withstand ambient light —and this is only half the journey. You must consider other contributing factors like the position of your projection screen, shading, and the time of day.
Mount your screen so that sunlight doesn’t fall directly onto it, and avoid projecting at midday when the sun is at its brightest. If you want alternatives to outdoor projectors, consider getting an outdoor TV.
Gabriella ‘Diogo is a content writer with a vested interest in tech hardware and equipment. She shares her knowledge and processes in an easy-to-grasp, lighthearted style. When she’s not testing or researching device performance, you’ll find her writing short stories or rewatching episodes of her favorite sitcoms.