Basics of fine-art photography/Creating works in a high key

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Big Buddha on Lantau Island, Hong Kong
Photo from the book «Six months by islands... and countries», p. 147

High Key is a method of lighting used in photography to create a special artistic effect, characterized by minimal contrast and the absence of dark tones.

General information[edit | edit source]

To create photographs in a high key, very bright lighting should be used, affecting the shadows present to such an extent that they will almost not be noticeable. In the strictly classical sense of the method, the result should not contain dark grey and black details, but a modern interpretation suggests minor inclusions, such as black eyebrows in a portrait.

Useful advice[edit | edit source]

If you are planning to shoot outdoors, it is advisable to do so on a clear day with side lighting and, of course, a light (or white) background.
If practising indoors, you will need to do some preparatory work.

Ways of implementation[edit | edit source]

To create a perfect photograph in a high key will require a considerable investment of money to purchase the appropriate equipment and accessories. However, possibile get your first skills with an ordinary room. You can start by taking portraits. Use a perfectly white material as a background: a wide roll of paper or at least a piece of white cloth without any patterns, texture or small spots. You'll need four light sources, two of which — the main (brighter) and the fill light (extra) should be directed at the person being photographed, placing them on the left and on the right; the rest (less powerful) should be used to light the background. The result will be a life-affirming image with a positive tone.

Possible mistakes[edit | edit source]

The photo may turn out to be contrasting.

See also[edit | edit source]

Creating works in a low-key