By Anna Gay on | No Comments
In this post, we will look at two different, yet very popular, lighting techniques: HIGH-KEY and LOW-KEY. High key lighting is just what you would imagine - very bright and even light, whereas low key lighting will emphasize midtones and shadows. Now, lets look at these lighting techniques in more detail:
First, let’s look at High-Key Lighting:
Varying levels of light can be used in high key, ranging from "just bright enough", to "teetering on the edge of over-exposing your highlights", which is a completely valid stylistic choice.
High key is also used to separate the subject from the background, which is why a lot of magazine ads feature the product on a white, seamless background. This technique adds impact to the photo and makes sure the main subject is the focus.
So if you want to make your subject stand out, OR give your photos a bright, happy feel, high key lighting is a great place to start.
Having several studio lights, flashes and reflectors is the ideal lighting set-up to achieve an image with even light, no shadows, and no over-exposed highlights. But not all of us have that much equipment available to use.
Here are a few things that you can do, with limited equipment, that will allow you to achieve a high key look:
The secret to achieving good high key lighting is experimentation and practice, and can vary based on your equipment and your shooting environment. The most important thing to keep in mind, though, is to try to AVOID harsh shadows and SEPARATE your subject from the background.
Now, on to Low Key Lighting:
Low key lighting tends to be a bit more general of a term than high key lighting. Low key photos can range from "slightly darker than a perfect exposure", to "almost completely black altogether".
Low key lighting is great for conveying emotion and mood in your photos.
How you choose to expose your highlights and shadows is entirely up to you, though having a wide range of midtones can definitely add more detail and visual interest to your photo. Here are a few things to keep in mind with low key lighting:
This is a simple crash-course in high key and low key lighting - THE BASICS. But hopefully it will give you some new ideas and motivate you to try some brand new shooting techniques.
Half the fun of high and low key lighting is experimentation, and the rest is finding what type of lighting suits you, your style, and your vision!
Do you have any questions or comments about High Key or Low Key Lighting? Just leave us a comment below - we would LOVE to hear from you! And PLEASE SHARE this post using the social sharing buttons (we really appreciate it)!
Anna Gay is a portrait photographer based in Athens, GA and the author of the dPS ebook The Art of Self-Portraiture. She also designs actions and textures for Photoshop. When she is not shooting or writing, she enjoys spending time with her husband, and their two cats, Elphie and Fat Cat.