Low-key photography can be difficult for beginner/experienced photographers. It is an easy technique that bring drastic change to an image but could take quite time to master. Like most of the photography, it is all about elimination and illumination.
A low-key image contains mostly dark tones and colors. The shadows would be the primary focus of the photograph. A low-key is usually used to give off mysterious/gloomy feeling.
High-key images convey atmosphere and mood. A high-key image would give off airy and light feeling.
Black and White is one of the most popular choice, since it really brings light to the shadows.
All you need is your camera and one light source to create a low-key image.
Camera Settings- The only setting that should stay constant is the ISO. Set the ISO to 100 or as low as you can. It will give you good image quality if you keep your ISO low. Then it all depends on adjusting the shutter speed and aperture to get the desired effect for the light that you chose.
Lighting – the choice of the light is up to the photographer. You have only one key light so the only choices to make now are the intensity and direction. The only rule to keep in mind when shooting low-key it o never allow light to reach your background.
Following is a basic studio light setup for low-key photography. The direction and intensity are all up to you, but avoid lighting the background. And also back lighting can produce some good results.
If you don’t have a studio, one popular method is to use two separate rooms. You have to block off all the light in one room so that it’s completely dark, and use the other adjoining room as the light source. You can use the door to control the amount of light. Prevent the light from hitting the camera or the background.
If you are unable to use the adjoining rooms, then we still have different methods that you could possibly use, indoors and outdoors, daylight and night.
We can create a low-key image any time of the day with an off camera flash. It works in the midday sun if you are in doors and works well outdoors on a cloudy day.
On a Tripod, in manual mode:
- 1. Set your ISO as low as you can
- 2. To reduce a lot of the sun light, set your shutter speed to fastest it will go with the triggers you are using.
- 3. Set up your shot
- 4. Start with the aperture wide open (low number). Take test shots and narrow it until there is no ambient light in the frame. The Histogram should be flat lined at the bottom.
You would have to experiment from here. Set up your flash and shoot. You could lower your flash output or move the light further away if there is too much light in the picture. If the background is contaminated then you could move your subject further from the background or you could change the direction of light. It might need a bit of adjusting to achieve your intended results.
Even If you do not have a flash, you can still take low-key photos by using the outdoor method. You just have to wait until it is night, then head out into the darkness and find your single light source. It could be streetlamp, car headlights, moonlight, or even a flashlight.
A low-key image is just one that contains mostly dark tones and colors. There are many ways to achieve that. Feel free to experiment, one of the most useful and under used features on the camera would be exposure compensation.
It all depends on how you apply and control of the light that makes a great low-key image. The lack of light puts all focus on what light is allowed to stay. A good low-key photography requires a precise application of light, shadow and tone. You would have to control around your light and placement of subject until the shadows fall exactly where you want them. It can be easy but also difficult at the same time.
The information listed on this page is not the only method to shoot high key photography. There are many other ways and places to get a good high key photography. This is just for you to give you an idea of one of the most popular method to achieve this effect.
The high key lighting means the majority of tones are above middle gray and that the background is almost always white but also shows some details. High key photography uses unnaturally bright lighting to blow out most or all harsh shadows in an image.
The good thing about high key is that there are many ways to create the look, it is all up to the photographer to experiment and do what will work the best. Some can be impressively simple, others can be complicated. High key images usually convey a positive or upbeat tone. This method is perfect for a subject that is funny, lighthearted or beautiful. You can see high key lighting is regularly used for model photography. Another area that is perfect for high key is product photography. The bright nature of the photo highlights the product and can be a great attention grabber.
For the equipments, you will need to have at least three lights, four if you have the equipment. You will also need to use a white backdrop that could be brighten up.
Position your subject in the center of the backdrop and make sure to keep the shot’s frame within the frame so that no gaps are showing. Next, Place the key light above the subject, and light the subject at 45 degree angle. And fill light need to be below the key light, facing above to the subject. And also, you will need to eliminate the shadows by using one or two lights angled and pointed at your backdrop.
It is all about the experiment, you will end up with a lot of bad photos at first, but it will be better as you figure out a decent light setup. One thing to keep in mind is the light bouncing off your backdrop can cause strange halos around your subject. At the same time, you want to make sure you are lighting up the backdrop enough to get a fairly solid white.
For the Camera settings, keep in mind that all of the settings are aimed at letting in lots of light but make sure that it’s not too bright to blow out the subject. For example, The pictures on left had too much light on the background, while the picture on the right had the right amount.