I've been asked to take head-and-shoulders portraits of some people against a "green screen" — presumably to make it easier to then paste those shots into another picture.

I've never done this before, so I'm wondering if anyone can offer any advice. This will probably be done indoors, under florescent lighting. I'm planning on using a tripod, and have some reasonably fast lenses available.

Should I use a flash, or use the "natural" light? Would it be better to do it outdoors? (The temperature will probably be in the -10C range (15F).

Is it better to have a shallow depth of field, or a wider one? Should the subject be right up against the background, or out in front of it?

Anything else I should know?

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Make sure your subject isn't wearing green... seriously though make sure your subject is far enough from the BG so that green light isn't reflected onto your subject... \$\endgroup\$
    – Matt Grum
    Commented Jan 29, 2011 at 18:58

3 Answers 3


I use in my studio separate lights for the greenscreen and the subject, the right way to do this is to have a uniformly lit greenscreen and no shadow of the subject on the greenscreen.

You can find more on youtube from the video guys, almost same rules apply to all.

More info:

http://www.5min.com/Video/Avoiding-Green-Screen-Mistakes---Chromakey-72086812 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6brdwY-dvU

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for uniformly lit background and no shadows of the subject on the greenscreen. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 29, 2011 at 21:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ I ended up shooting outdoors on an overcast day, and the pictures seemed to come out well. \$\endgroup\$
    – chris
    Commented Apr 21, 2011 at 15:04

With a big green background it'll be reflecting the light and potentially messing with the color cast of the light on the subject. You'll definitely want to either set a custom white balance in-camera or use a gray card and set the white-balance in post (be sure to shoot RAW).


Well, on the "anything else I should know" front... Make sure your subjects are not wearing green or something close to it. I know this sounds obvious, but you'd be very surprised at how many people miss the obvious there, thus creating the disappearing body part syndrome.

Beyond that, as others have noted, ensuring that the background is evenly lit and that your subject isn't casting a shadow on it are the other big ones.

  • \$\begingroup\$ That would seem to indicate that I should try to avoid using a flash, since that might cast shadows. \$\endgroup\$
    – chris
    Commented Jan 29, 2011 at 22:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ Using "a flash" would be bad because you will throw shadows, and it will probably be pretty unflattering to the subjects. Using multiple flashes to control the light would be better. Using some softboxes to soften the light on the subjects, a flash for separation, and separate ones to light the background evenly, would be best. \$\endgroup\$
    – Greg
    Commented Jan 29, 2011 at 23:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @chris Off-camera flash is OK if you're careful about where your shadows fall. With on-camera flash, a shadow on your background is almost unavoidable. \$\endgroup\$
    – Evan Krall
    Commented Jan 30, 2011 at 0:12

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