It’s fair to say that we’ve all seen a poor chroma key job at one point or another. The weather man’s tie may be see through, a subject may look jagged and unrealistic, or there may be creepy shadows and reflections in the background. All of these problems can make the chroma key effect look like an amateur production.

Here are some tips for shooting green screen footage that will keep your final video looking professional!

1. Lighting

A properly lit subject and green screen is the key to good chroma keying. If you don’t have enough light on one or the other, you’re bound to run into difficulties during the editing process.
Light the Screen
You’ll want to light your green screen independently of your subject. The best way to do this is to light the screen from multiple sources so you can cancel out any shadows that may be caused by one directional lighting. For example, an ideal situation would be to position a light on either side of the screen at about a 15 degree angle. This should flood the screen with light and eliminate shadows or any area of darkness on the screen itself.
Lighting the Subject
Using two point or three point lighting will be most effective way to light your subject. Two point lighting means you need one key light on your subject and one fill light. The key light will be a direct light on the front of the subject. It will work best if the light source is slightly elevated. Think about this light being the sun shining down to provide the main source of light.

Your fill light will be positioned to either side of the subject and will be a little less severe than the key light. This will eliminate shadows on your subject. If you have the space and resources, adding a third light is helpful, though not mandatory. This third light should light the back of your subject to create depth and separation from the background. This light is usually hung above and slightly behind the subject so it cannot be seen in the shot.

2. The Screen

You don’t have to go out and buy an expensive screen to chroma key. You can use a bright green sheet, a painted wall or even a piece of poster board. Whatever you decide to use, you want to make sure it is flat, free of any wrinkles and doesn’t have any rips or holes. Wrinkles will cause shadows that will be visible later when you go to key out the green. A bright green color is the industry standard, but many people also use blue screens to create the same effect.

3. The Subject

Your subject can be anyone or anything as long as it is not the same color as the background. If you’re using a green screen and your subject is wearing a green shirt, they will look like they have a floating head when all is said and done. However, if you are trying to come up with an effect where something disappears for comedic purposes, that’s an easy way to do it.

Try to avoid reflective surfaces. This includes mirrors or shiny objects. Even a white shirt, which reflects light, can cause a green tint that could be keyed out during editing. For best results, have your subject wear a matted saturated color that is not green.

Shooting your own green screen footage is really easy to do! If you’re looking to work with ready-made green screen backgrounds, check out our Beginner’s Guide to Editing Green Screen Backgrounds.

Explore Ready-Made Green Screen Footage