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How to take better high-key photos

The message How To Achieve Better High-Key Photos ' s first appeared at Digital Photography School. It is written by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

Lighting influences the atmosphere of a photo. High-key photos are associated with happy, positive feelings.

If you use one main light and avoid contrast, you can take photos that convey a happy mood. This technique is popular with wedding and portrait photographers. It is also often used in stylish advertising campaigns.

How to make better high key photos Young clown

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

What is your most important light?

Your most important light source is your most important light. It can be light from any source. The sun on a cloudy day is the best natural key light. Artificial light from a portable flash, studio flash or a continuous light source can also be used. To create the right atmosphere, it is best to spread the light.

Spreading your light source scatters the light rays. This reduces the amount of shadow in your photos. When you have a strong, soft key light, the shadows that it casts are minimal. You can use additional lights or reflectors to further reduce the effect of the shadows.

To maximize the sensitizing effect, you must take photos with a narrow tonal range. The difference between the darkest and lightest areas in your composition should only be a few stops. You must work with the light sources to balance the light ratio.

How to make better high key photos' s Young woman in the park

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

What's wrong with shadows?

There is nothing wrong with shadows, but they can imply a heavier mood.

Deep shadows in a photo are often associated with more sombre feelings. Shadows are often used with great effect to convey drama, mystery and tension.

Hard edges and high contrast limit what a viewer can clearly see on a photo. This lighting technique is often used by photographers and filmmakers to evoke feelings of doubt and distrust.

Adjust the light and contrast level with the help of one diffuse button light on your main subject. This gives a nice feeling.

The use of one strong, non-diffuse light produces hard shadows on your subject. This often results in a darker overall feeling.

Man Studio portrait

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Use high-key light with the right subject

It is always best to consider and adjust the light that you use to best suit your subject.

High Key and Low Key

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

During the portrait session I had with this young woman, we wanted to create two different moods. One light and happy, the other more serious.

For the high key photo I used a large softbox on my main studio light and a smaller softbox on my secondary light. This produced a soft, clear wrap around light with little shade. I also lit the background with two strong lights to add to the happy mood. It is clear that her radiant smile completed the tone of this photo.

During the same session I changed the lighting. I only used one light and did not diffuse it. I also turned off the background lights and she turned off her smile.

If I had kept the lighting the same as she posed with the two different expressions, the mood would not have been transmitted as well.

How to take better high key photos Clean up disputes

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

How does the background influence high-key photography?

I think the lighter the background, the happier the feeling of a photo can be. But light-colored backgrounds do not have to be used exclusively.

In a photo session with a ceramic artist who really wanted to get in touch with her medium, we produced a series of different photos. Some were high-key with a light background. We made others with a dark background. Some of them I used high-key lighting. In others I used one non-diffuse light.

How to make better high-key photos' s Clean Ceramic artist

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

This was one of the first pictures in the series before it got dirty. The high-key lighting combined with the light background and another beautiful smile produced a light, happy portrait.

Muddy ceramic artist

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Drop on a dark background and keep the key slightly the same. After applying some mud, this resulted in a nice, rather unusual portrait. The mood is certainly different from the dark background. The lighting was actually the same.

Muddy Ceramic artist Close Up

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Because I wanted to create a different atmosphere, I then used a single, non-scattered light with a gloomy, contemplative attitude.

Note the shadows

Your main light source determines the amount and strength of the shadows in your photos. You must pay attention to the shadows and make sure that they are not too dark. Eliminating or reducing the shadow areas will improve the effectiveness of your high-key photos.

The use of a large, soft light source produces the least amount of shade. This can be a large softbox on a studio strobe, as I used in the examples above. You can also use sunlight to take high-key photos.

On cloudy days or when your subject is in the shade, the shadows will weaken more. The shadows can be problematic in full, bright sun. They become darker and have hard edges. This high contrast will not contribute to the atmosphere that you want to create.

Finding an outdoor location where you can illuminate your subject with sunlight can help you take very important photos. In such situations you need a fill light that acts as your most important light. Although the sun is brighter, the light that you add is the main light from which you must get your meter reading.

How to make better high key photos' s Young Asian woman outdoors

Young clown

If you set your exposure to this light, as I did in the photo above, this will result in an overexposed background. I was able to achieve this look because of the white painted structures in the neighborhood. They reflected light back into her face.

Conclusion

As with all styles of photography, working with the light to create the desired photos is an integral part of the process. The better your exposure is, the better your photos will be.

Experiment and try different light sources to achieve a high-key effect. There are no hard rules and you have to work with what you have. Whether you are in a studio or outdoors, you will face challenges.

How to make better high-key photos' s Chicken Nerd

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

You may not have enough space, lighting or diffusers in a studio. Be creative, think outside the box and innovate when you want to take high-key photos.

Do the same outdoors with natural light. Try diffuse flash to balance the light ratio and reduce the shadows. Use reflected light that bounces off a wall or building. Wearing a fold-out reflector is also another practical way to subject the shadows.

How to make better high key photos' s Strawberry Cheesecake

© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Think about how you can take a number of high-key photos using what you have available. You don't have to photograph people. Food, still lifes and other subjects can also be well presented with the help of high key lighting.

I would like to see something in the comments below with a description of how you made them!

better high-key photos' s

The message How To Achieve Better High-Key Photos ' s first appeared at Digital Photography School. It is written by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

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