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Shooting with a Chromakey

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Are you bored with shooting the same old identical poses on the same old identical backdrops? You have heard “Blue Screen” could be the path for you but you just art not sure how to get started and don’t what to invest a fortune to get started.

I faced a learning curve back in the early days of this technology through trial and error. Today the entire process is simplified through the use of Photoshop , processes and/or plugins as well as stand-alone applications. First lets put the meths to rest and explore the process to a quick and successful digital background swap.

The color Blue or Green makes little difference although green is quickly becoming the trend today. I use both, but also use Black and white more often then not. The original thought was that both blue and green contain less colors that conflict with skin. As cameras progressed in technology green became favored because of fewer conflicts with clothing. Any backdrop can be used with some careful planing it’s sometimes more advantageous to use one over the other, but we will explore veracious situations later in this article..

To Make Life Simple on Yourself, Flat Lighting is Essential.
Flat lighting is essential because shadows on the background will effect your final results. This could give way your look of realism and destroy the effect of the background. If you have practiced for years to never let the light from your main fall onto the backdrop, you will need to retrain yourself. Uneven lighting may result in other shades of the background color, which may not be extracted accurately.

In the diagram to the left you can see how I gridded my Beauty Dish for directional control, then feathered the the softbox to spill directly on my backdrop. I still have dark, harsh shadows falling on the backdrop, so an additional strobe with a 7″ reflector and barn doors is needed. The barn doors are to help with in the reduction of light from hitting the back left of my model. This would be a typical White, Blue or Green screen setup for me. I am not as concerned with shadows hitting a Black backdrop, which I usually use for work intended to be night scenes.


Photoshop is not required:

Before I get into the processes and plugins I use I should point out there are some very effective inexpensive programs that will give you outstanding results without the need for photoshop. While I use Photoshop for my work a Google search for Chroma Key Applications and Plugins should reveal a complete list. I would advise trying several until you find something you are comfortable with.

As I mentioned earlier Photoshop plugins provide a very high degree of accuracy and simple to use. You can remove a background without third party plugins. Removing a background or anything in Photoshop starts by creating a Mask. How accurate you wish to be is dependent on the time you wish to invest in any given project. You should review my Quick Mask tutorial or Google Masking in Photoshop.

What I like about the Plugins is the accessory and detail. If properly lite you can remove the background while leaving a single strand of hair. This would be next to impossible masking in photoshop without a third party plugin.

Adobe recommends Primatte Chromakey 3.0 in the Extension exchange, I have tried it and found it a bit overly complex, but excellent. With the ability to do Black, White, Green and Blue. Its priced at $299.00
I really like (and own) The Green Screen Wizard, it’s simple and very accurate. It has the ability to remove Blue and Green backgrounds. The Photoshop Plugin starts at about $149.99. They also offer several stand-alone versions which are very simple to use.
A friend gave me MaskPro by OnOne from my birthday. This is not a Chromakey plugin, but this Plugin ROCKS! It’s very effective for doing fine detailed masking and background processing work, its a real lifesaver!! What i love about this plugin is you can select the background color to remove or the foreground color to keep. Then you simply erase the other. I have used this on some very difficult and poorly lit images. It took me about one minute longer then the Green Screen Wizard (had I shot on a chromakey).

The Screen itself:

Chroma Key backdrops come in a verity of shapes and sizes. I don’t go anywhere without a 5’x7′ Flexy Blue/Green Chroma Key in the car, because you never know. 🙂 I use a 9′ roll of green in my Sacramento studio and a 12′ roll of blue in my San Francisco studio. I’m told by some video friends that they prefer green for several reasons. It really makes little or no difference to me, but I seem to prefer the blue for other reasons.

I have found companies that make chromakey body suites, boots and gloves, tape, the possibilities are limitless. As for the digital backdrops. E-Bay has so many its sickening. I usually make my own…

Have fun 🙂

Professional Models used in this article: Stefani Sotelo and should be contacted directly for booking inquiries.



Some models try to combine beauty and sensuality in their journey to fulfill their dreams within the highly competitive modeling industry. Stefani, from California, brings a new degree of professionalism, perspective and can-do attitude to the industry. From that extra sparkle-in-the-eye, to her high energy, passion and creativity that truly shine when she works in front of the camera, she is a pure delight. Some models have to work at being sexy for the camera. Portraying sexy is something she has highly refined! Stefani’s command of body language and facial expressions, blended with her elegant, sophisticated poses, ensure a successful photoshoot. Stefani has also been known to tear up NorCal’s hottest runways with her own flirtatious strut. Stefani is Drop-Dead Gorgeous, walking in off the street without makeup. She has those unique Bolivian/European facial features and bone structure that I refer to in many of my beauty photography articles. I can hardly wait to shoot some high-end beauty work with her. Stefani loves the hot stuff, but her gorgeous, refined features and perfect figure makes her perfectly suited for just about anything from commercial fashion to flirtatious glamour. GlamModelz Magazine knows Stefani is going to be taking the NorCal modeling industry by storm and we look forward to following her career as she jets towards super stardom. Stefani has published 13, articles with GlamModelz Magazine.

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I'm a Northern California Professional Photographer, based just outside San Francisco California. I specialize in commercial product advertising, architectural, Family Portraits, Boudoir, Weddings and Food photography. I have been working with Bay Area and Sacramento, Modeling Agencies for more then fifteen years, shooting portfolio development for models and high-end makeup artists. I am highly creative and always unique. I shoot cutting edge projects in the studio and on location, through the San Francisco Bay Area, Roseville and Sacramento. Dave has published 60, articles with GlamModelz Magazine.

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