Pho­to: commons.wikimedia.org

Chro­ma key has become a famil­iar part of video pro­duc­tion, from home blogs to pro­fes­sion­al film stu­dios, and it can also be use­ful for pho­tog­ra­phers. Let’s fig­ure out togeth­er what a chro­ma key is and how to choose the right one if you don’t have one yet.

How chromakey works

Green back­ground, or chro­makey, is a very pop­u­lar tool in mod­ern pho­tog­ra­phy and videog­ra­phy. The idea of ​​using chro­makey is sim­ple: you shoot a per­son or oth­er object against a green back­ground, trans­fer the image to your com­put­er and use soft­ware to replace the green back­ground with…yes, any­thing!

Want to vlog from a space­ship — please! Here is a video guide on how to do it. Source: Youtube chan­nel CINE 24 VFX

Here your pos­si­bil­i­ties are lim­it­ed only by your imag­i­na­tion: from conif­er­ous for­est to a space­ship, from the Eif­fel Tow­er to Sauron’s tow­er. The trick is that green is almost non-exis­tent in human skin tones, so this col­or is easy to cut out in post-pro­cess­ing and replace with the back­ground you need. This is why chro­ma key is so loved by both Hol­ly­wood direc­tors and Youtube blog­gers.

Green or blue chromakey — is there a difference

Blue is also min­i­mal­ly rep­re­sent­ed in human skin tones, which is why it has become a pop­u­lar alter­na­tive to green back­grounds. The dif­fer­ence between them is small. Blue back­grounds have an advan­tage for dark and night scenes due to their low­er bright­ness. On the oth­er hand, it may require more pow­er­ful light­ing.

If you want both green and blue chro­ma key at once, pay atten­tion to Ray­lab RF-12. Pho­to: fotosklad.ru

In gen­er­al, in order not to be mis­tak­en, choose the clas­sic green chro­ma key or com­bined options with blue and green on dif­fer­ent sides, for exam­ple Ray­lab RF-12. This is a fold­ing muslin chro­ma key mea­sur­ing 150 by 200 cm (we will talk about all these char­ac­ter­is­tics in more detail below). It is suit­able for both vlog­ging in the home stu­dio and out­door por­trait pho­tog­ra­phy. Also, a quick-fold­ing back­ground is a super option for tik­tok­ers: it takes up lit­tle space and is easy to take with you every­where.

What matters when choosing a chromakey

Object size

An intu­itive rule applies here — the larg­er the object you are shoot­ing, the larg­er the back­ground should be. Most often, chro­ma key is used to pho­to­graph peo­ple, but how to cal­cu­late the right size? For a “sit­ting” video blog or a waist-length por­trait, a back­ground 1.5–2 meters wide will suf­fice. The height is unprin­ci­pled — any stan­dard chro­makey will do, for exam­ple Fuji­mi FJ 706GB-180/210. For full-length shots, the width increas­es to 2.7–3 meters, and the height is select­ed indi­vid­u­al­ly — depend­ing on the height of the mod­el and how much of the floor will be in the frame.

The Ray­lab BC01 3m x 6m Muslin Chro­ma Key is just right for full-length shots. The fab­ric has no seams and joints, so it will be easy to “cut out” the object.

The Ray­lab BC01 Muslin Chro­ma Key is suit­able for shoot­ing pho­tos and videos where a full-length per­son will be in the frame. Pho­to: fotosklad.ru

For video film­ing in motion or a pho­to of two peo­ple in full growth, you need a back­ground from 5 meters wide and 4 meters high.

Nat­u­ral­ly, if you are going to shoot a large group of peo­ple or larg­er objects (like a car), you need even larg­er options.


Are you going to use chro­ma key for loca­tion shoot­ing? Then a fold­ing back­ground will be the most con­ve­nient option. The Ray­lab RL-BC06 mea­sures 1.5 meters by 2 meters, suit­able for shoot­ing chil­dren or waist-length video. Although with due skill it is pos­si­ble to adapt this back­ground to the full height of an adult. Also RL-BC06 will be good for prod­uct pho­tog­ra­phy. This back­ground can be set to a work­ing ver­ti­cal posi­tion in 10 sec­onds, with­out the need for addi­tion­al stands and cross­bars.

The quick fold­ing design makes the Ray­lab RL-BC06 a very con­ve­nient back­drop for on-loca­tion work. Pho­to: fotosklad.ru

This option is also well suit­ed for a small home stu­dio — when fold­ed, it takes up almost no space.

For a large stu­dio, you can choose larg­er sta­tion­ary options such as Green­Bean Field 3.0 x 7.0 (note that the mount­ing sys­tem is pur­chased sep­a­rate­ly).


Usu­al­ly chro­makeys are made of fab­ric, paper or non-woven fab­ric (more often it is mat­te vinyl or span­dex). Fab­ric chro­makeys are main­ly sewn from muslin, a dense cot­ton fab­ric, and pho­to­phones are also made from it. Such chro­makeys are good for their unpre­ten­tious­ness and dura­bil­i­ty. With fab­ric, you can drape a wall or fur­ni­ture so you don’t have to use addi­tion­al fas­ten­ing sys­tems. The main dis­ad­van­tage is that fab­ric chro­makeys wrin­kle eas­i­ly, which caus­es shad­ows that are more dif­fi­cult to remove dur­ing post-pro­cess­ing.

Paper back­drops are sleek and inex­pen­sive, and can be rolled gen­er­ous­ly to cov­er the floor, but they’re not suit­able for drap­ery, and you can’t take one out. Thus, paper chro­makey is a good option for pho­to stu­dios (includ­ing home ones), and thanks to the length of the back­ground, you can shoot large objects. 11 meters of paper back­ground Ray­lab 010 Green will cost less than four thou­sand rubles, a fab­ric back­ground for the same mon­ey will be no longer than 6 meters. In addi­tion, the paper back­ground is much lighter. But paper has a big minus — it gets dirty very eas­i­ly (after all, they will stand on it with their feet). There­fore, you will either have to change the chro­ma key peri­od­i­cal­ly, or spend much more time in post-pro­cess­ing (and end up chang­ing it any­way).

Paper chro­makey is con­ve­nient to use in a sys­tem of sev­er­al back­grounds. Pho­to: tovarnadom.com.ua

Non-woven back­grounds cope with this prob­lem — they are easy to clean and are not infe­ri­or in strength to muslin ones. Also, such back­grounds crum­ple a lit­tle, which sim­pli­fies the work with the image. Of the minus­es of non-woven back­grounds, small per­fo­ra­tion can be not­ed — usu­al­ly it is not vis­i­ble (espe­cial­ly on video), but it can appear in side light­ing if the object is too close (for exam­ple, in prod­uct pho­tog­ra­phy).

Non-woven back­grounds have fine per­fo­ra­tions. Pho­to: fotogora.ru

The Ray­lab RL-BC06 men­tioned above is made of span­dex — high reflec­tiv­i­ty and the absence of seams can be writ­ten down as def­i­nite plus­es of this chro­ma key.


Chro­ma key opens up huge cre­ative pos­si­bil­i­ties for pho­tog­ra­phers, video­g­ra­phers and vlog­gers. You can quick­ly find the right back­ground with­out much effort dur­ing post-pro­cess­ing.

When choos­ing a chro­makey, you should pay atten­tion to the size of the sub­ject (the larg­er it is, the larg­er the width and height of the back­ground should be), the mate­r­i­al (con­ve­nient, but with its lim­i­ta­tions — non-woven back­ground; cheap, but short-lived — paper; con­di­tion­al gold­en mean — fab­ric back­ground ) and decide whether you will take the back­ground for loca­tion shoot­ing (then you should stop at the fold­ing option).