High Key and Low Key

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High Key and Low Key

This style of photography really requires a high level of knowledge in the field of photography. Special knowledge in exposure measurement is of utmost importance

Professional tip: Studio photography

High Key and Low Key photography, maximum expression!

This style of photography really requires a high level of knowledge in the field of photography. Special knowledge in exposure measurement is of utmost importance. This style is in most cases used to enhance the expression in black-white photos. Shots in Low Key style consist mostly of dark image areas, which frequently tend towards black. The number of lamps is very often reduced to just one studio flash. High Key shots are predominantly used in fashion and portrait photography In contrast to the Low Key photography, this style mainly consists of bright image areas. Shots that were taken as High Key very often have a dream-like effect and give the portrait an almost glowing appearance.

Low Key photography

A Low Key shot requires detailed and thorough planning, because the effect of the image is enormous and does not permit much tolerance in the arrangement. In most cases only one or maximum two flash heads are used, which move the main motif into the centre. The background or the surrounding area is kept dark or black. Dark clothes and black hair of the model support this effect tremendously. The atmosphere of such images spans from frightening, via gloomy to weird. The expressiveness of such images is very strong.

The exposure measurement is decisive for the success of Low Key shots. It is recommended to use spot metering. The exposure measurement solely concentrates on the lights. Very often the light quality is quite hard and very directed. A classical illumination structure would be for instance a black background in a fully darkened room with a flash head from the side. Many photographers place a honeycomb or a tube with a honeycomb in front of the flash. Ideally there should be no reflecting surfaces, or the room painted black. A slight underexposure is favourable for post-processing on a PC and boosts the effect. Low Key shots are preferably made in black and white for portrait shots.

High Key photography

This photography style is also reserved for the black and white photography. A few photographers also use it in colour photography, but these are a minority. Without distracting colours, the expressiveness is considerably higher. The installation of the illumination is already somewhat more expensive and requires quite a large number of flash heads. The illumination must be maintained very soft, this effect is achieved with Softboxes. Another important aspect is the illumination of the background. A slight overexposure of the shot by up to 2 apertures is recommended.

The exposure time should be determined by means of photometry and the background or the clothes of the model should ideally be white. Light-skinned persons with blond hair are particularly suitable for this type of photography. The studio wall cannot be light enough and should reflect as much light as possible. Uniform illumination is of utmost importance. Light mounts, such as our background reflector, Octagon boxes and Striplight, support a soft illumination. Post-processing on a PC by means of photo editing programs is very often reduced to just soft-focussing the skin. Smooth and beautiful skin is of advantage for post-processing.

High Key photographs are mainly used in fashion photography. Over the last few years more and more photographers also discovered this style for nude and erotic photography.