How Do You Use A Green Screen In Photography?

If you’re really new to photography, you should start by familiarizing yourself with the terms you’re going to use. One of them is the “green scree” and you can use it as a backdrop in Chroma key photography.

You don’t know what Chroma key photography is? It’s a process that exchanges a solid-colored background from behind the subject of a photo (but it may also be a video) with a different background. Have you seen the weather forecast on TV lately? Remember Spiderman climbing up a building? Well, these are some of the most popular situations when you see Chroma key photography at work.

Why use a green screen in the first place?

In case you’re wondering why it’s green (blue works too) and not brown, the answer is that it’s easier to separate a background from a human subject in a photo/video when the background is made with a solid color that humans don’t have it in their skin tones. Obviously, we always talk about humans and not any other SF characters.

What’s the first step?

Using a green background isn’t difficult at all and you need to start by preparing the materials you’re going to need:

  • The digital camera
  • Your computer (it doesn’t matter if it’s a Mac or a PC- they both work)
  • A cable to download images from camera to your computer
  • Chroma Key photography software. Most of the green screen programs out there are compatible only with PCs, but you may also find some that run for both operating systems.
  • The green screen background.

The marker gives you plenty of options on that one too so you do need to choose wisely. It’s one thing if you’re a professional photographer and you need one on regular basics, and you don’t need the best one out there if you’re only going to use on Christmas.

How to choose a green background?

As there are so many options out there, it’s important to pay attention to some details when shopping:

  • Size is important and you should go with 5’x7’ when taking individual pictures. If you’re planning some group shots or full-body pictures, you may need a 10’x12’ or 10’x20’ screen.
  • Portability

This has to do a lot with your needs to and you may get a rolled-up backdrop or a collapsible pop-up screen.

  • Material

The options on the materials are also plenty and various so here are some of the choices you can go with:

  1. Vinyl
  2. Paper
  3. Fabric (polyester, muslin)
  4. Paint (you may simply color your studio)
  5. Foam-backed

No matter what your final choice is, you need to stay away from shiny/glossy materials as one of the most common issues with the Chroma key photography is the bounce-back color from the reflective backdrops.

  • Your studio lighting

You want to obtain the best contrast between the background and your model so it’s important that the green screen is well lit. If you’re shooting outside, the natural light may be enough (if you’re in a brightly lit area). The situation changes when you’re indoor though and some professional equipment is the key.

  • The background stands

A studio owner may already have a stand to hang some backdrop rolls from. If it’s too expensive for you, you can get a collapsible green screen that comes with hanging hooks.

  • The digital background

You may select digital background that is similar to muslin or the choices you can have are so many and various. You just need to have your pick.

The steps to use a green screen

With no further introduction, here are the steps:

  1. Install your green screen background.

When you’re using a portable stand, it’s important to ensure its stability so that it doesn’t flap in the breeze or moves around along with your model.

  1. Make sure there are no wrinkles

If you payed the extra buck for a foam-backed screen, that is wrinkle-free- lucky you! When you’re using a fabric green screen, you need to get rid of wrinkles. You may spray it with water or a handheld steamer. You should stretch it really tight as it dries for minimizing lines that are going to cause shadows in your background.

  1. Set up the lighting

It’s important to light the screen separately from your subject so that the lighting is even and doesn’t cause any hot spots nor shadows. When the background has a uniform color all over its surface, the Chroma key software gives the best results.

  1. Choose the digital background for your shot
  2. Set up the lighting on your subjects

You need to pay attention to the direction of the light in the digital background that you chose for your new backdrop. See where the shadow is falling and mimic the angle of lighting on your model. You need to match the intensity of the light so that your photo looks more real too.

  1. Place your subject

You don’t want any shadows on your green screen so put some distance between model and your screen. Don’t hesitate to play a bit with your own lighting and subject until you don’t see any more dark shadows in the backdrop. If the distance is bigger too, any reflection is going to be cut down too. You don’t want any green glow around your model either.

  1. The model has to stay in front of the green screen

Any part of his body or costume that doesn’t have a green screen background is going to have a different background and the Chroma key software isn’t going to be able to remove it. Last thing you want to do is to lose time trying to knock down unwanted background.

  1. Download the picture to your computer
  2. Almost done

As you’re selecting your photo, the software is going to guide you on what to do with it. You can remove shadows or any creases and you can find online some tutorials about how to do the best picture.

Even though you may be a beginner, using a green screen for photography isn’t that complicated and you only need to pay attention to details and get the right gear to do it. Where there is will, there’s power, you know how they say!

In this tutorial we show you a few tips to make filming for a virtual set easy: