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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

High Key & Low light Photography

Yesterday, I was reading a very interesting forum about studio high-key lighting and doing low-light photography. First of all, I am a firm believer that photography is subjective, especially when it comes to interpretting dramatics such as high-key and low light (For those of you who are unfamiliar with what high-key it is defined as: a scene with delicate tones or pastel colors. A photograph which contains large areas of light tones, with few areas of middle tones or shadows). My model Kim V was my subject for some high-key photography yesterday evening. I shot this photo with the nikon 24-120 at an F8, 1/125 shutter speed, ISO 250 hand held, using the 86 inch PLM for my main light, about 6 ft away off and over my right shoulder, a strip box off the left side, and a small octabox as a hair light and two strobe lights to blow out the background. When I shoot high-key I don't particulary like to use grids although I could have gridded the hair light. In other words I like to bathe the entire area with pure undirected light, and prefer that my subject don't smile because I like to minimize the shadow areas (as if it can even exist with as much pure white light that is screaming all over the set when I shoot high key). This is my interpretation of high-key and because it is subjective, others might have their own way of doing it. I wanted to incorporate a ring flash into some of the shots, but I was having major issues with my Pocket Wizards last night not firing the ring flash, that I just became frustrated with it the idea. I think the look is cool, and would be a good look and shot for a page in a magazine or better yet; the cover of one because of all the white space that can easily be filled with unobstructed text. Maybe I will start Twittering my photos to give them more exposure with the ideas of how they might be used, and that might lead to a someone messaging me about using it. We'll see.

Low light photography in my opinion requires much less equipment, and a bit more creativity. Mainly because there is no strobe light involved and you are using the available ambient or introduced light to set the mood. Low-light is very good for capturing the vivid colors displayed at night time, especially in club settings. You're photographing it exactly how it appears to the naked eye. Low light doesn't exactly have to focus on any main subject except for the lighting itself, so other subjects in the photo need not look their very best or can look beautiful, but the lighting is what makes the photo and the mood of it. There are no real particular settings for shooting low light except for the basic rules, always shoot in manual mode and that your camera should be able to handle high ISO settings relatively easy to reduce the grainy dots better known as noise in digital photography.

Right now I feel like I am doing something that I definitely don't want my blog to do; read like an instruction manual. I am not instructing just venting from the forum I read yesterday and just how really subjective I guess one would have to be to understand high-key and low lighting.


  1. Can you explain- w/o being too technical- what the photographer did to my photos vs what you've done here. I can see that your photos are clearer...but aside from that isn't this the same concept?


  2. Are you referring to the 3 photos that are currently in your port on MM? Neither of them are high-key or low key photos. If you feel that I am wrong about that, please direct me to the one which you think fit this topic :)