Magazine Article


Digital Anarchy's Primatte v3.0
Expand your repertoire using chromakey techniques

Top photo of Danielle was shot in the studio. The final shot,below, incorporates the Bengal tiger.
Neal Martin

Neal Martin

Above is the shot of the young girl in the studio, with a chromakey background, and below is the final image of her sitting on a lily pad with a butterfly in her hand—a photograph no mother could turn down.
Neal Martin

Neal Martin

I began my career as a medical photographer with The University of Texas, Southwestern Medical School in Dallas. As an avid golfer, I photographed golf events on weekends, which brought me into contact with clients in the motion-picture industry. I was fascinated by their use of chromakey technology in the production of motion pictures. Seeing chromakey used on a movie set and its results on the movie screen was fantastic. I wondered if this technology would ever be available for studio use.

When the Primatte 1.0 Photoshop plug-in was introduced, I began to use it for studio portraiture. My learning curve was slow; I'm self-taught and learned by trial and error. I quickly found out that Primatte couldn't overcome a bad portrait session.

Lighting for chromakey was a bit different from lighting my subjects in front of an Old Masters background. I had color spill issues to overcome from light bounce, and lighting the backdrop properly was as important as lighting the subject. After experimenting with several light setups, I settled on a six-light system. I can use this lighting setup in studio or on location and achieve the same professional results. You can see a light diagram on the Digital Anarchy website (

The term “chromakey,” often referred to as “greenscreen,” is a bit misleading. Primatte will work with just about any color backdrop. Since subjects normally do not wear green clothing, it is the one used the most. I prefer to use blue in most instances-light-colored hair and skin tone separate easier. The use of fabric chromakey backdrops from Filmtools help reduce color spill.

There seems to be a myth that you can't photograph blue on blue backdrops, or green on green backdrops. When Primatte is processing an image, it's creating an action in Photoshop. If blue jeans are removed, just use Photoshop's History brush to recover the lost blue color.

When Digital Anarchy introduced Primatte 2.0, it was a definite upgrade. Digital camera quality had become good enough to enter a variety of photography markets. Since I don't photograph weddings, I began to research areas I could apply chromakey to. I spent hours searching the internet, looking for backgrounds and how I might apply them to photography markets that interested me. As I searched, I found I could look at a background and visualize posing my subject to fit into that background.

Many companies offer high-resolution backgrounds. When you offer theme photography, there may be times when a client or event may request a design be created for them. I then may use Photoshop, Illustrator, and Autodesk's 3ds Max (or a combination of them) to create my background; most times, though, I've purchased a background. It's easier to light my subject when I use an Old Masters–style background.

If you use an existing background that you've purchased or created, study the background light direction and contrast closely. Then light your subject, using the same light angle and contrast range as the background. An example is the portrait of Danielle and the Bengal tiger for her model portfolio.

Chromakey will work in almost any photography market; however, I found high-volume events presented a problem because of the time it took to process individual images.

When Digital Anarchy introduced Primatte 3.0, my photography market expanded. The new version has better color-spill correction features. With its automation feature, it allowed me to start photographing private schools. I now process images in groups, without stopping to examine and mask each image individually. The Automask feature has a button that will mask 80% of the images in one click, allowing me to skip the standard three-step process that Primatte 2.0 was built around. (These tools are still there, if you require them.)

Automask analyzes an image and automatically removes its background, eliminating or reducing the need for manual keying. With properly photographed images, hundreds of images can be masked at once. The Primatte control panel, called Light Wrap, provides much better spill suppression and provides a better foreground/background blend-great for creating sophisticated composites.

Primatte has allowed me to expand into the markets of adult portraits, dance studios, child portraits, location events, private schools, proms, high school seniors, martial arts schools, studio portraits, conventions, and youth sports. I'm exploring other markets that I can apply chromakey photography to as well.

Neal Martin of Martin Photography is based in Arlington, TX. You can see more of his work at For more information on Primatte 3.0, go to