How to Take High and Low Key Photos

When learning a lot of people want to try out new photography techniques as a way to progress their photography. High key photos and  low key photos are 2 of these techniques rolled into one for you here and I know it is one of those techniques which some people struggle with, but not any longer! Lets go over the basics of high key photography first, then we will delve into how to simply transform this photo into a low key shot!

High Key Photography

So what is happening in the picture below?


Remember to light the background separately

What you are seeing is the background and the subject being lit independently. Put simply there is a flash lighting the subject and then another positioned close to the background set about 2 stops brighter than the flash on the subject. This is making the background a lot brighter than the subject therefore making it appear white when in fact it was beige. You can see in the video below how this works in practice. The power of the light positioned on the background will depend on the ambient light in the room and what your exposure is on your subject. As with most things a bit of trial and error will help you produce the best results here. Check out the video below to see our set up here.

Low Key Photography

With low key photos we need to just light the subject without spilling any light onto the background. Easiest way to do this is to make an exposure with the flash turned off in which we eliminate all ambient light – so the screen on the camera will just be black- as flash duration is a lot shorter than our shutter speed (in this case 1/200th close to max sync speed), we are cutting out all ambient light in the room so that the only light the camera will see is the light from the flash. Then we introduce a light, whether that be a flash gun or a continuous light source to light our subject only nothing else.  A top tip would be to move your subject away from the background so no light can spill over.

Then get shooting and playing with the position of your light till you get something you are happy with! Remember that where you position the light will dramatically change the way your subject looks – start off with the classic Rembrandt lighting technique which is 45 degrees to the side and 45 degrees up of your subject (Rembrandt lighting in the video below) and work with the light from there and don’t be afraid to move the light about, you can get some really cool unique lighting in your photos doing this!

Here is the video of how these picture were taken, hope this helps and if you any questions don’t hesitate to get in touch. Enjoy!

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