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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

"Green Screen" For Photographers

Pro tips for creating imaginative composite images

This Article Features Photo Zoom

"What's the difference between masking and keying? Think of it this way: You mask the background, and key the subject. The same thing is happening in both instances; it's just semantics, I guess."
Chris Borgman is a New York-based photographer with a knack for crafting wild and whimsical images. He does this with a tremendously creative imagination and help from technology. He often photographs subjects and backgrounds separately, compositing them together in post.

"It all started out very innocently many moons ago," Borgman says. "I was outside shooting a model in a park against trees and a nice blue sky when I wished there were more clouds—nice big ones. So later in Photoshop, which I was just learning, I added a sky that I had shot another day. It was so easy; everything looked seamless. I added the sky, but didn't get very close or exact around the trees or the model's blowing hair because I didn't have to since the original sky was already blue. Later, I found out that when I shot a model against a white overcast sky, it was much harder to add a nice blue sky. So when I started shooting more studio work, I used the same principle—if I wanted to add a sky, I shot on blue. If I wanted to add trees or grass, I shot on green."

From that simple beginning sprouted Borgman's body of composited work. While his technique may be more refined these days, one thing hasn't changed—the "green screen" approach.

The technique is called "green screen" because of its connection to the chroma green that prevails in video. (Think of your TV weatherman floating over an animated map.) But Borgman shoots his subjects against a variety of colors. It all starts with a previsualization of the finished image because a seamless blend requires knowing what color the background will eventually be.


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