Photography backdrop selection can make all the difference when it comes to the quality of your images. Modern chroma key technology allows us to put basically anything that we want behind a model on a green screen. So, why wouldn’t you want to always use a chroma keyable photography backdrop? While using a green screen backdrop can give you tons of editing options, there’s a time and a place to use them.
It’s a common misconception that green screens are made of some special material, but all that changes on a photography backdrop that can be used as a green screen is the color. Usually, a backdrop material that can be used as a green screen will come in a color like “chroma green” or “tech green” but besides that, it will be identical to a traditional backdrop.
This post will explore some of the main issues with using green screens for photography and why using traditional vinyl, muslin, or seamless paper photography backdrops are still your best bet for most scenarios.
When green screens aren’t the greatest
Green screens can be an amazing resource for photographers. Many people in the photography industry underutilize the capabilities that green screens offer. Using a green screen as a photography backdrop allows you to easily edit the backgrounds of your photos, but they are not without their limitations.
Lighting is one of the biggest issues when it comes to using a digital background. Green screens can reflect their colors on your subjects if they get too close which can ruin a shot. Not being able to use the reflected light off a photography background is very limiting when you start to plan to light a subject. This can be avoided somewhat by using a backdrop colored in “studio blue” due to its low-luminosity, but it can still be an issue if your subject is close to the backdrop.
Green screens are only as good as the camera, lenses, and the software that you’re using. Low-quality image processing can leave a halo effect when you’re using a green screen which looks very unprofessional. Unfortunately, there isn’t really a middle ground when it comes to green screen work, you either have something that looks great or something that looks cheap.
The advantages of traditional vinyl, muslin, and seamless paper photography backdrops
Sometimes the lowest tech solutions work better than anything else. Traditional photography backgrounds look great and keeping a selection of them can really open up the diversity of images you can capture.
Vinyl: Buying a vinyl backdrop is an investment, but they will last a lifetime. The durability of vinyl makes it easy to clean so you can keep your backdrop looking fresh. Modern vinyl has a matte finish that eliminates the reflective glare that used to go hand and hand with the material back in the day. It also won’t wrinkle like other materials which add to its versatile nature.
Muslin: Is a glare-free cotton material that is machine washable and extremely versatile. Muslin is best used when you can have absolutely no reflection off of your background. If you need to do a shoot with a totally blacked out background then you should go with a black muslin backdrop. The other really cool thing about muslin is its portability, you can fold up a muslin backdrop and take it with you easily as opposed to carrying a big roll of seamless paper around.
Seamless Paper: Is a staple of any photographer’s gear list. It’s cheap, versatile, and disposable. As soon as you get a piece dirty, all you need to do is pull down more off the roll. It’s more reflective than the other two materials on this list, but for certain situations that can be a great option.
While it’s true that green screens can be an awesome asset for photographers, they will never fully replace traditionally colored photography backdrops.
Photography backdrops in the studio
Of course, all of this talk about photography backdrops would be incomplete without mentioning the photo studios that they’re used in. Photography studios are designed to make switching between different types of backdrops fast and easy. Renting a photo studio gives you immediate access to a wide array of backdrops and other equipment that you can use to create some incredible images.
Each photography project will have different needs, but backdrops will almost always be a commonality between all of them.
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