Backdrops or Green Screen?

JeanSpringer

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Hi! I'm in the process of setting up a studio in my basement for a new business venture. I'm very excited about this, but I have lots of questions. It's a belly painting business for pregnant women where I will be photographing them and sometimes their significant others and any other children they might have. I will also be photographing newborns and small groups. What are the pros and cons of investing in a green screen versus investing in various backdrops? Right now I'm using muslin and they just wrinkle. I want something that doesn't have a glare and that is wrinkle free.

Thanks for your help,
J
 

astroNikon

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You can always use clips to stretch the muslin so it's wrinkle free to your backdrop stands.
 

tirediron

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Green screens are specifically meant for removing, that is, when you intend to composite a different background into an image during post-processing. They have no other use than that unless you like really ugly green backgrounds. If you have wrinkles in your muslins, then either pull it tight and clamp it on the frame, or steam them out using a hand-steamer.
 

JustJazzie

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Honestly, I hate my green screen. Unless you can put TONS of room between your subject and the backdrop you end up with a green cast on your subject, and if you are a perfectionist like I am, you really need 4-5 lights to correctly light it for ease of removal. I have had much less stress removing someone from a white or black background than on the green screen.

To remove wrinkles, I use a spray bottle full of water, clamp down the muslin, spray it down and give it some time. Within 15-20 mins all is dry and mostly wrinkle free. Lately I have been adding some texture overlays to hide any small wrinkles that remain and to add a bit of depth to the image. Someday, I will get a pre textured background but until then, the results are worth the extra effort.
 

idcanyon

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Green is good for movies where the motion tends to hide imperfections. Its not just reflections, but also semi-transparent materials--lacy kinds of things. I think you're better off to shoot against middle gray if you want to replace the background.

Wrinkles on muslin: how much of a problem this is depends on the quality of the fabric. Cheap backgrounds will be tough. I use Silverlake backgrounds with a steamer. The fold lines literally fall out of the fabric in one pass of the steamer. No need to stretch--this works under its own weight. It only takes a couple of minutes to get a background ready after unfolding and hanging it. I have a few cheap backgrounds too, but I never use them. I think one of them became a paint drop cloth a few years ago.
 

JustJazzie

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Green is good for movies where the motion tends to hide imperfections. Its not just reflections, but also semi-transparent materials--lacy kinds of things. I think you're better off to shoot against middle gray if you want to replace the background.

Wrinkles on muslin: how much of a problem this is depends on the quality of the fabric. Cheap backgrounds will be tough. I use Silverlake backgrounds with a steamer. The fold lines literally fall out of the fabric in one pass of the steamer. No need to stretch--this works under its own weight. It only takes a couple of minutes to get a background ready after unfolding and hanging it. I have a few cheap backgrounds too, but I never use them. I think one of them became a paint drop cloth a few years ago.
Ahh! Brilliant. I've been seeing lots on hand painted backdrops. I wonder if I can paint my green screen so it isn't useless anymore. Hmmmm! Thanks for the idea.
 

idcanyon

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Ahh! Brilliant.
If you are referring to the middle-gray idea then here is a tip (for you or anyone else who might be reading)... You just put your target background as a layer underneath your portrait and change your portrait's blending mode to Overlay. Gray becomes transparent and melts away like magic! You usually only need a very rough mask to harden up the central solid areas.
 

Designer

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I wouldn't use a green screen for portraiture. The green backdrop can lend a color cast to everything in the room unless you are very skilled at lighting and then photoshopping it out.

I recommend seamless roll paper in a neutral (no color tint) gray. You can light the backdrop separately to make it white, black, gray, pink, blue, or any color you wish.
 

JustJazzie

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Ahh! Brilliant.
If you are referring to the middle-gray idea then here is a tip (for you or anyone else who might be reading)... You just put your target background as a layer underneath your portrait and change your portrait's blending mode to Overlay. Gray becomes transparent and melts away like magic! You usually only need a very rough mask to harden up the central solid areas.
sorry, I suppose my thoughts werent clear. Using the backdrop as a painting cloth initiated a cascade of thoughts that ended with me wondering if my green screen muslin would be thick enough to repurpose into a hand painted backdrop or two! Otherwise, we do have a large painting job coming up. ;-)
 

Big Mike

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I think the advice is clear....don't go with a chromakey backdrop (green on whatever other color).

The two most common backdrops are probably muslin or seamless paper. A fabric backdrop can be bought with a pattern or it can be painted. They can tend to have creases and wrinkles, which can be dealt with, but they can be a PITA if all you want is a smooth background.

Seamless paper is nice because it's on a roll and it's comes off nice and smooth. When it gets dirty of worn out, you just cut it off and roll out some more. The downside is that it's a consumable product and you'll have to replace the roll...and shipping can be hard/expensive because of the length.

Either way, the key to good background is being able to effectively light (or not light) them. This likely means having enough lights to light the background separately from the subject, and having light modifiers that can constrain the light and keep it off the background when needed.

Having a large/deep studio space makes this much, much easier.

Lastly, setting up a studio in a basement is going to be tough. Often, the best position for a light is higher than someone's face, and that gets to be hard or impossible when you have limited ceiling height.
 
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JeanSpringer

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Wow, thank you everyone for the responses. So no green screen. Got it. I am definitely a beginner at this so I wouldnt even begin to know how to solve for the green cast all of you have spoken about.

My next question is, I have a cheap muslin, but am looking for something a bit better quality. You guys mentioned seamless paper? Where is the best place to buy this? I'm thinking online? I'm in the philadelphia area, and there aren't really any photography stores near by (closest one is in NYC (B&H)).

idcanyon, you mentioned Professional Photography Backdrops | Photography Muslins | Photo Studio Equipment, Accessories - is there any other sites people order from that are good?

Thanks again.
 

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I bought mine online, and frankly, I forget the supplier, but I went through Amazon because we have Prime, so the shipping was "free". If you are within driving distance to B&H or Adorama, then just go there to pick up a roll.
 

idcanyon

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If you have a professional photography store in the area you may be able to get seamless paper there. Consumer oriented camera stores won't. Search for "Seamless Paper" at B&H. If you are shooting headshots then the 53" wide rolls are fine. If shooting full body or groups then you need to get the 107". The length just determines how fast you use up the roll. This is DEFINITELY the way to go if you want a solid color background.

Personally, I rarely use solids anymore. I most often use the "Polar" background from Silverlake because it is so versatile. I gel it to whatever matches my subject. Gelling only works if you can really control your light (easy with individual headshots) and never works on full body shots. If you think that ability might be useful to you then you should start with a neutral color mottled background because they gel so well.
Here is one I did this way last week with a very simple two light setup--softbox+reflector for subject, speedlight on Polar background.
wur_4072_1.jpg


This is the same background 5 minutes later, same setup, different gel, different kid.
wur_4172.jpg
 

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