Simple Steps to Mastering Green Screen Photography
The principle behind green screen photography magic is fairly simple, but harnessing this powerfully creative tool, even for the seasoned photographer and graphic designer, can be challenging.
To get you started out right, let’s first explore the basic concepts behind green screen photography and the software used to achieve the magic — also called chroma key software.
The first thing you’ll need to do green screen photography is a green screen backdrop. These screens can be as simple as a green plastic sheet (though we don’t recommend shiny plastic) to an expensive fabric screen on a specialized background stand. Chroma key techniques are so popular today that many photographers, videographers and filmmakers have even transformed or built entire studios using ‘green’ backgrounds exclusively.
Avoiding Shadows on the Green Background is Critical
Setting up the correct lighting situation is very important with any photographic set up and shooting against a green screen is no different. The most important thing to keep in mind is to avoid creating shadows on your backdrop. This will result in different shades of green in your background and can affect the software’s ability to properly remove those areas — as you can see happened in the example below. Also be sure there are no creases or folds in your backdrop as they will show up as shadows as well.
The image above on the left was shot with a direct flash. The harsh shadow makes complete green screen removal nearly impossible. When the background is replaced as it has been on the right, the shadows show up as black areas in the final image. One way to avoid these shadows is to use an on-camera flash with a diffuser to soften the shadows.
With Green Screen Wizard software there are some great tools to help you remove unwanted green screen shadows, but the best approach is to avoid creating these shadows in the first place.
Find a spot next to a window that’s generating plenty of ambient light as we show in the set up above. An outdoor set up is another way to utilize ambient light in order to avoid shadows. Find a shady spot on a bright, sunny day and you’ll have all the ambient light you need. Plus, it’s the least expensive set up!
Place your subject in front of the backdrop and when setting up the shot, be sure the green background fills the entire frame. Stand close to your subject or zoom-in.
Working with Green Screen Software
Upload your image to your computer and using your green screen software, bring in your new image. This is step one in performing the all-important step of removing the background. Below is our image loaded into Green Screen Wizard software. You perform this first step by selecting “Load Foreground”. Once you select the desired subject image press “OK” and now the foreground image is loaded. At this point the image looks just like it did in the camera — an image of a women standing against a green screen.
To perform the real green screen special effect you will also need a background image or images. With Green Screen Wizard software you can use most image formats for your backgrounds, it is not necessary to purchase backgrounds, however many professional photographers use the specialized Green Screen Wizard background collections.
Now go ahead and load a background image by pressing “Load Background”. This brings up another open dialogue and you can select any background image. In this example we’ve selected a photo of an aqueduct in Mexico. Pressing “OK” brings the background image into Green Screen Wizard, and also tells the software to run its chroma key removal algorithm which then merges the background with the foreground as shown below.
That’s all there is to it — the specialized software does all the work! All the areas of the foreground photo that were green, are replaced by the background image. In future posts, we’ll explore in much greater depth, how to unleash the full power of the software which can perform very sophisticated retouching and special effects. You’ll learn how to handle such challenges of thin hair that lets some of the green through, a bride that is holding green flowers, removing shadows or wrinkles on your green screen, and much more.
Let’s try another background. Doing this is a snap. This time we’ll put our subject in a woodland scene. Do this by choosing another background image and pressing “Load Background” and “OK” and presto, she’s been transported to an entirely new scene!
Or use the power of Green Screen Wizard Pro to put your subject in the image by using a Sandwich Overlay. The result is very realistic as you can see below!
All you need to do now is to save your image. Perform this final step by selecting “Save” and Green Screen Wizard will bring up the save dialogue so you can save the image onto your computer.
That’s all there is to it! In just minutes you’ve already mastered the basic steps of green screen photography magic. But this is just the beginning, especially if you are using Green Screen Wizard software which provides the professional photographer and designer with exclusive special effects tools that allow for practically unlimited creativity. Bottom line is your clients will be amazed and you’ve just added a specialized service that will surely expand your photography business.