Imagine taking a photo in a studio and magically being transported into any scene in the world, real or fantasy. Green screen photography is all the rage, but what exactly is it, and how does it work?
Sometimes called ChromaKey or Blue Screen, green screen photography is the use of a solid background that is easily removed using a computer and replaced with any backdrop imaginable. While green or blue are the most common colors, it is possible to use any solid backdrop for this process.
If any solid background is possible, why choose green? Green and blue are by far the most common colors used in digital ChromaKey photography because they are the two colors that are farthest away from natural skin tones. If the color of the backdrop is too close to someone’s skin tone, there is a risk of the background being projected onto the person being photographed in addition to the background, making for a poor result. While blue screens can work well in digital photography, they do have their drawbacks. Blue is a more common color in clothing, which can yield a poor result. There have even been cases where blue eyes have been picked up by the computer and replaced with the background. For these reasons, green is by far the best choice.
There are many advantages to using green screen photography. Besides being able to insert the subject into virtually any scene, green screens allow the editor to make any changes easier, from out of place hairs to out of place shadows. In addition, because the backgrounds are identical, it is easier to combine two or more photos in order to construct the ideal shot, even if it didn’t exist previously.
For anyone interested in getting started with green screen, it is important to make sure the material selected is the right one. This depends highly on where the photography will be taking place. A flat wall painted a uniform green color is ideal, however for photographers who need to be mobile, this is not possible. Another choice is a paper backdrop, however these are very prone to wrinkling and tearing. While a roll of paper seems like an inexpensive choice at first, it will quickly rise in cost as rolls have to be continuously replaced. If mobility is needed, a fabric backdrop is best. Fabric backgrounds can be washed and ironed to keep them clean and flat. Of course, a good mounting setup is essential, as the slightest breeze can create movement and shadows that will show up in the finished product.
Green screen photography is a great way to not only transport subjects into fantastical settings, but also can provide much needed control for the photographer. With the rapid rise in digital photography tools and software, green screens have become an essential part of any professional photographer’s set of equipment. With the right tools and the right knowledge, the sky is the limit when it comes to getting results.