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school photos, green screen problems, st. patrick's day

A young girl posing in front of a green screen.

When I was a kid growing up in the ’80s and ’90s, on school picture day you posed in front of a backdrop that resembled something you’d see in a Sears portrait studio. But these days a lot of school photographers pose children in front of green screens so their parents can choose a background later.

The process is called “chroma keying” and it’s used for dropping digital effects into movies. The problem is that if you wear green in front of the screen, part of you will disappear when the new background is added.

Sugar Grove Elementary in Indianapolis, Indiana ran into some serious problems earlier this month after it decided to have picture day on St. Patrick’s Day. The school had scheduled its spring photos twice but the dates were changed due to inclement weather.

A few days after the photo shoot, parents got a real shock when the photo proofs arrived and their kids were partially invisable in the photos. They had floating, disembodied heads, and their clothing seemed to blend into the background of the shots.


Amanda Snow, the mother of a kindergartner at the school, thought the proofs of her son were hilarious so she posted them in a local mothers’ group asking if anyone else had the same issue.

“Honestly, I just couldn’t wait to see other parents’ pictures, and it ended up being a hilarious fiasco. Just because it’s so funny,” Snow said. After Snow’s post, the photos began pouring in.

A girl became one with a flower bed. One young boy blended into the fence near a pasture. Another boy was cut in half by a dirt road. After the photos were sent to parents, the school's principal sent a message home saying, "Don't worry, the photography studio can fix this in post-production."

Snow's son was understandably confused by the photos.

"It was kind of hard to explain to him what was happening because he's 6, but as soon as he saw all the different options, he was just laughing because it looks like he's a fence or looks like he's a field," Snow said. "So he thought it was really funny."

The photos came with a warning from Inter-State Studio, the company that took the photos.

"The image is not the final product because it gets fixed in post-production," the company said. "We appreciate the opportunity to respond to this specific instance. Everyone has had such a good sense of humor about this!"

The photos have been so memorable that Snow wants to keep the original proofs. "I might reach out to the company and see if I can get the unedited ones because honestly they've brought me so much joy and laughter over the last days,” Snow told WKYC.

The botched photo shoot goes to show that sometimes doing things the old-fashioned way is the right way to go. Let’s hope that the next time the school has a photo shoot on St. Patrick's Day they remind families to send their kids with an extra set of clothes.

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