Personally I love green screen. To me it adds immensely to the value of the booth. Maybe it is because of my own creative nature but although it is an add-on/up-sell. I actually prefer to do a green screen photo booth as compared to one without. On a few rare occasions I even offered to do the green screen free at no extra charge after the client had booked the photo booth without green screen, just because I happened to like that particular customer, and of course they graciously accepted.
What Is Green Screen
In the broadcast industry, green screen is technically known as Chroma Key or Chroma Keying, and its history dates back to the 1930’s. Feature film producers make regular use of it, but the most recognized use of it is in the nightly news shows where it is almost always used in weather reports.
I understand that green was originally selected for chroma key because ordinary human skin of all races does not have any green components in it.
While green remains by far the most common background color for chroma key, in theory any color can be used, and the second most common used color is blue. I actually haven’t seen any other color being used but in theory it is possible.
Green screen is actually pretty simple. Whatever software you are using simply looks for any use of the selected color which from this point forward we will consider green, and replaces it with the supplied background. More technically, the chroma keying program takes a sample of any green pixel it finds on the photo and replaces that with the corresponding pixel of whatever color from the background image. A case where an alternate color such as blue would be used would be in the case where the subject was wearing the color green.
As you may already know, if for example the subject was wearing a green dress, well in the green screen picture it would look like she didn’t have a body. The dress would now become a part of the green screen background. In testing this out I have worn green t-shirts on occasion, and basically what happens is that it looks like I just have a head, arms and the rest of me just disappears.
I have actually never switched the green screen to blue (though this potion is available with the BREEZE software I mostly use) because in my experience people who are wearing green actually have fun with this reality and it can create some pretty interesting pictures.
Most photo booth software packages include green screen. Specifically I know that the current versions of Breeze and Social Booth.
(www.photoboothsolutions.com) include Green Screen.
While green screen can be a lot of fun, you do have to know a bit more about photography, subject placement and lighting.
Lighting And Subject Placement Is The Key To Making Excellent Green Screen Pictures
In real estate, they say that the three most important things are location, location and locations.
Well, in green screen photography or photo boothing, the most important thing is location, location and lighting.
How you handle location and lighting will be the difference between OK and truly great photos.
When I say location, what I mean is the placement of the subject or subjects relative to the green screen backdrop. To achieve the greatest result, you want to keep the subject as far away from the backdrop as possible, Five-ten feet is ideal. Unfortunately this is not always possible on site as the space is not allotted but try in all cases to keep the subjects at least 2 feet from the backdrop. Do not replace them right up against the backdrop and if that is where they want to go then tell them to move forwards. The main reason for this is to reduce the shadows that create jagged edges or “jaggies” around the subject.
When it comes to lighting, do everything you can to make sure that the subjects are better and more lightly lit then the backdrop. The first step in achieving this is to use a flash. I generally recommend this with all photo booths in any case as it creates better color composition, allows you to use a lower ISO, compensates for different lighting conditions without having the make major adjustments, and accents the faces of the subjects, but in green screen photography it is even more important that the subjects are better lit than the background.
For a more serious photo shoot and where space allows consider adding professional photographic lighting. For the best green screen photographs you want to keep the ISO settings as low as possible and preferably at 100 or even lower if possible. With professional lighting you can lower the ISO. Since higher ISO setting create pictures with much more noise, this creates the possibility that the pixels on the green screen will be less green, or not green at all and may not be replaced in the picture. The picture below is one I experimented with where not all the green screen was removed.
Occasionally you will be asked to do green screen outside. While it is possible and during the day there is usually no shortage or light, try to stay out of the sun as it may create unwanted shadows and bring along your lighting just as if you were in a dark room. Who knows, the photo booth could be such a hit that they ask you stay well into the night. In any case, if you rely on natural light and don’t know how to make adjustments when the natural light changes, which I can guarantee it will as long as the earth keeps circling the sun, you could get into some jams.
Amazingly professional lighting is much cheaper than you would think, can make your booth look more professional and these lights definitely make better pictures. If you don’t have the space for such lighting, work lights from the hardware store will do the job but probably won’t look as professional.
The other thing that professional lighting does is eliminate shadows that the flash might create when someone holds up a prop, or for other reasons. Just remember to place the professional lighting in such a position that it evenly lights up the green backdrop and does not create hot-spots.
Creative Uses Of Green Screen
I haven’t done this myself yet, but I found one of the most creative uses of green screen in the tourist shops of Niagara Falls.
For years (and I’m going back as far as the 1970s), there used to be shops where you would ascend a few stairs behind a barrel and then your group got their picture taken in a barrel. They tell you to look scared and then snap the picture. It was a very nice personalized souvenir that you could purchase at a premium price. The picture looked quite real and obvious it was very popular as these shops lasted for the better part of 30 - 40 years.
Well, a couple of years ago, passing these very some shops, I noticed that the physical barrels were gone and instead they had replaced their backdrops with just a green background. I actually thought that the physical location was a bit less appealing visually then the former “take your picture in a barrel” setup, but nonetheless, since they were photographing everyone ascending in this case the Skylon Tower, I went ahead and got my whole family photographed.
Of course, after you take the elevator back down from the tower, you exit into an area where you can digitally see you picture not just in a barrel, but also in a variety of locations in Niagara Falls. The equality was quite good so of course I did purchase a couple of these pictures. Once again, they were not cheap. I think I paid something like 25-30 dollars.
Similarly if you go to Las Vegas and decide to visit the Stratosphere Tower, they will take your picture in front of a green background before ascending the elevator, and on your return you will have a choice of receiving very nice pictures of yourself at various locations throughout the city, and if I remember right in the desert as well. And yes, I remember this because I paid the 20 or 30 bucks they charged to get the very nice pictures.
Photokey 6 seems to have become the leading green screen editing for photographers. I first learned about it during several photography shows, seminars and courses that I have attended in the last while.
I am sure I will buy a copy some day soon but as Breeze has so far met my needs for Green Screen strictly for the photo booth I haven’t been able to cost justify the $299 price tag so far, but I did take some time to download the demo version and played with it for a while. It is quite intuitive.
What this program does allow you to do is take any green screen photo with the green background and blend it with any green screen background you may need to use. In testing out the demo, I did find it to be very intuitive, a feature I like to see in any software.
If at some time your Green Screen career leads you to editing photos for your clients, this is definitely a program you will need to get.
The website for the program is:
If you really want to learn more about his program Dave Cross at F.J.Westcott is the go-to guy. I have attended a couple of his seminars and have asked him some questions, and this guy really knows his stuff. He has a great series of videos on YouTube and anyone who is serious about green screen should watch them. Here is the link to one of them:
Of course the Photokey program does have its competitors. Some I have come across include:
I downloaded the demo version of this program also and it seems that it has a relatively easy user interface as well. If you explore the website they teach a lot about green screen and even shell backgrounds and magazine templates. When I have a chance to catch my breath, I will definitely be exploring this site further.
One of my businesses specifically targets green screen and this is how I differentiate myself from some of my competition. I call my business “Green Scream Photo booth” and a couple of my slogans are “I Scream You Scream We All Scream For Green Screen” (I credit my son Derek for that one) and “More Fun Than A Roller Coaster”.