How to Green Screen with the Multimedia Team

By: Kristeena Alder, CA DCSS 

Have you ever wondered how some of the photos you see on our website or the Reader Board are created? The California Child Support Services Office of Communications and Public Affairs and their Multimedia Unit wanted to give you a behind the scenes peek into how photos with a wide range of backgrounds are created using a green screen.

The Multimedia Unit creates memorable photos and videos using their green screen studio. In fact, there’s a good chance you’ve seen these composites and didn’t realize it; that’s the beauty of the green screen.

Here’s a quick breakdown of how “green screening” works. The first step is to set your subject against a well-lit, non-reflective green wall or backdrop. Blue is sometimes used as well, but green is the most common color. Why green? Blue and green are on the opposite end of the color spectrum from red and orange, the main colors in skin tones. Skin tones actually don’t naturally contain any blue or green, so by using green there is less interference when trying to extract an image of a person from the background. This works well unless the person is wearing green, so you’ll notice in the photos there’s not much green in the wardrobes of MMU cast members.

Once the shot has been captured, the next step is editing software, in this case Adobe Photoshop. Photoshop has several tools that can be used to remove backgrounds, including ones that select the subject and cut it out. Once the subject is isolated, it must be placed on its new background. Once in place, the editor makes a few adjustments to the color, adds some realistic shadows, and the new image is complete.

It’s the details that really sell the composite. Now that you know some of the secrets, maybe you’ll be able to spot a photo that’s had some work done.