Everyone who has watched a weather forecast on TV has seen green screen (sometimes it’s blue) technology. It is what makes the screen blank behind the forecaster so the computer weather data and maps can be shown as the background.
Green screen still photography is the same as green screen video, it is a great tool for removing the background from your subject. Chromakey green is the wild green color that few of us have in our wardrobe (not quite so good a tool on St. Paddy’s Day). Therefore, we can take a photograph, and if the entire background is green, it can be removed almost automatically. The program I use for that is Photokey 7 Pro, the top of the line in such programs.
Sometimes, it can be pretty amazing. You take a picture then import it into Photoshop. Copy the layer and that turns on the Photokey plugin in the menu (it won’t work without first making a copy…that way you can’t mess up the original photo). Click that you want to edit in Photokey 7 Pro and wait a few seconds. The picture comes on the screen with the background gone and the subject is cut out. The automatic cut out is pretty good most of the time. But there is some fiddling with sliders required and that is pretty much a guided trial and error process. Photokey’s best video currently was done a while ago with Photokey 6, but it is still relevant. It gives a sequence of how to adjust the sliders. It’s a pretty long video beyond the scope of this article. But it does help and even tricky ones generally separate from the background. You click the button to send the picture back to Photoshop and you have the cut out picture in a new layer.
My experience is that you can really save the most time by having the subject at least 6 feet away from the backdrop. The backdrop reflects green light onto the subject and will be visible in hair and other places–this is called “spill”. If the subject is farther away then there is less reflected light. Although it works with solid black, it is not the easiest wardrobe color to separate.
In my example, I used the green screen to capture the model (Fern Lawrence) laying on some stools. Then I inserted that photo into a picture I had previously taken of a window in a bed and breakfast where I stayed. Then I added the lighting effects and the levitation picture was born.
Green screen material is available in rolls of seamless backdrop paper, as well as cloth. Be sure to light the background as well as the subject so the background will stay green in the photo. If you want o composite photographs, green screen is great. It is very useful during the holidays when you can cut out the subject and insert a holiday themed background.
Of course, few home photographers will find it worthwhile to purchase Photokey7 Pro and the backdrops, but this way if you come to a studio that is so equipped you will know what to expect.