Photography / Buying Guide

Picture your Favorite Scene with a Green Screen

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Thanks to green screens and image-editing programs, photographers can create just about any scenic background imaginable. All that’s required is an evenly lit Chroma Key Green background. To accommodate studio and location shoots, these backgrounds come in a large variety of shapes, sizes, and materials. You can even paint a cyclorama with specially formulated Chroma Key paints that are available in one-quart to five-gallon sizes. Rosco Chroma Key Paint has a high luminance value, excellent color saturation, easy-to-light matte finish, and covers up to 300 square feet per gallon.

Westcott X-Drop Kit

Collapsible Green Screens

Whether on location or in a studio, collapsible green screens are easy to transport, fast to set up, and take up very little storage space. The 8x16' Impact Super Collapsible Background features washable material, a strong outer frame, horizontal or vertical orientation, folds into a small circle, and comes with a useful, see-thru carry bag. The 16' dimension is great for full-length shots. For head shots and still-life, there’s the 5x7' Photoflex FlexDrop Background. This background weighs less than five pounds, employs a strong, double-riveted frame, non-reflective fabric, eight hanging tabs, and a storage bag.

Photoflex FlexDrop Background

Chroma Key Green Seamless Paper

Economical and versatile, Chroma Key green seamless paper can be cut to wrap objects, and taped together to cover large areas with ProTapes Pro Chroma Key Cloth Gaffer Tape. If you do a lot of green screen shooting, you may want to invest in a 107" x 150' roll of #46 Savage Widetone Tech Green Seamless Background Paper. This acid-free roll has a fine-tooth, non-reflecting surface, 100-lb paper density, and comes core-wound and wrapped in a plastic sleeve to protect against moisture and warping. Be sure to always store seamless paper vertically.

ProTapes Pro Chroma Key Cloth Gaffer Tape

Green Screen Kits

One easy solution for green screen photography is getting a kit. Kits can include lights, background stands, carry bags, and more. The Savage Photo Creator Kit - Digital Photography Kit comes with 720 digital backgrounds for use with green screen photos, is Mac and PC compatible, has a wide selection of themed locales, and includes a 5 x 7' backdrop. Corporate shooters will make a great impression on their clients with the Impact EX100 Ultimate Creative Portrait Kit. This comprehensive kit includes the Savage Photo Creator Kit with green screen background, two monolights, two 24 x 24" softboxes, 7" reflectors, synch cords, two light stands, a translucent umbrella, and a kit bag for storage and transporting.

Impact Background Support Kit - 10 x 12'

Choice of Green Screen Fabrics

Depending upon your preferences, green screens are available in a wide selection of fabrics such as muslin, canvas, cotton, polyester, vinyl, plastic, and more. Each fabric has its pluses and minuses. Muslin is rugged and easy to pack, but it also wrinkles. And vinyl is available in matte or glossy and durable, but needs to be stored and transported on a stiff core. Ideally, a photographer will keep a variety of green screens on hand to tackle the majority of assignments that might come their way. When shooting with green screens, it’s important to control the amount of green light reflecting on your subject. This will help you get a clean separation between your subject and the background scene. You can help control the bounce-back by not positioning your subject too close to the background and by blocking reflected light with black fabric-covered flags such as the 48 x 48" Matthews Floppy Cutter.

Digital Juice ChromaPop Studio with Stand Kit

Please share some of your favorite green screen tips and photos with fellow B&H photographers in the Comments section, below.

4 Comments

Can you include information on how to evenly light the backgroun in a home studio/garage? Thank you.

Try Dr. Google for crying out loud!

Greetings, Brian! Despite "zerobrains" flip response, your question is absolutely key to green screen success. I'm sure you can find scads of video clips on YouTube demonstrating effective lighting set-ups for a small studio space and a diligent Google search might also turn up illustrated overhead-view schematics showing the position for your lighting and for the subject. Google Images can be a great resource for that kind of thing. I hope these suggestions are a little more useful to you. Best wishes!

Hi Brian,

I'm happy to address your concerns. It's why I'm here :)

If you're shooting in a small studio or garage with neutral-colored white walls you may be able to evenly light your green screen with bounce lighting. In larger rooms or in rooms without white walls, you can try bouncing light into foamcore flats. Bouncing light into white-lined umbrellas placed about four-feet in front and on each side of the greenscreen background should also work. Aim each umbrella at a 45-degree angle, and toward the opposite side of the greenscreen. Meter readings should confirm even lighting. Be careful that the green light bouncing from the greenscreen doesn't wrap around your subject. In many cases, your front lighting will "over-power" this bounced light. Black sided foamcore, or other gobo material can help control bounced light.

One consideration is how much of the greenscreen needs to be evenly lit. If you're shooting a tight headshot, then the evenly lit area can be smaller than that required by a full length shot. Here's a trick taught to me by my FIT photo professor, Steven Manville back in 1979 -- with equally-powered model lights, you can more or less guesstimate when a background is evenly lit when the right and left shadows of an object such as your extended arm touching the background are equally dark.

If you only have one background light, then you can light the background evenly by "feathering" it. Generally you would place the light about 6 feet from the background and aim it at the opposite side (of the background). Sometimes you may need to place a small card on the backgorund side of the light. By playing with the angle of the light and the position of the card, and taking meter readings, you should be able to light the background fairly evenly. 

Lighting greenscreens evenly will help save time during post production.

Please give it a try and circle back to let readers know how it all worked out. I'm sure you'll come up with valuable hints to share with everyone. 

Thanks!

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