How to Shoot High Key Photography

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Photographers are frequently taught to take photos that are well-balanced, clear, and properly exposed. However, once you've gotten comfortable behind the camera, one of the most exciting aspects of photography is messing with these conventions and breaking rules. High key photography is an exciting type of photography that involves taking bright, overexposed photos, and it is an excellent style for beginning photographers who want to progress beyond the basics.


What Is High Key Photography?

High key photography is a photography style that employs unusually bright lighting to reduce or completely eliminate dark shadows in an image. High key shots typically lack dark tones, and the high key look is perceived as positive and upbeat. High key lighting is commonly used in portrait and product photography. It is not the same as low key photography, which has the opposite effect. Low key images have a high contrast and are darkly lit. When compared to high key lighting, low key lighting is much more subtle.


6 Essential Equipment You Need for High Key Photography

When shooting low-key photographs, you can get away with a small lighting kit, but a high-key lighting setup will necessitate a larger selection of lights to increase the number of light sources and available light. Some of the camera and lighting equipment you'll need to get started shooting high key images is listed below:

1. Camera digital: A basic DSLR or mirrorless digital camera is required for high key photography. Purchase a versatile entry-level camera that will allow you to shoot in a variety of lighting conditions.

2. Strobes: Strong standalone studio strobes are essential for any studio lighting kit, but especially for photographers wishing to capture high-key images. Invest in a powerful set of strobes to ensure you have enough light when photographing a high-key portrait or product. Strobes can be used as a primary light source, which can then be supplemented with additional lights.

3. Softbox: A softbox is a less expensive alternative to a strobe that can be used in place of or in addition to strobes. Soft boxes don't have nearly the same lighting power as strobes and may not be able to reduce shadow areas and blow out mid tones as effectively as powerful strobes.

4. Fill light: In order to reduce shadows on your subject, make sure you have enough fill light. Place lights opposite your key light to achieve the proper lighting ratio for low contrast high key images.

5. Background lights: Similar to fill lights, background lights can help you get an unnaturally high amount of light on your subject.

6. White background: For most high key studio photography, a white background is ideal. White reflects artificial and natural light back onto your subject while lowering overall contrast to emphasize the high key look.


4 Camera Settings for High-Key Photography

Aside from having the proper equipment, you should have a good understanding of what camera settings are most commonly used in high key photography. Getting the right settings can be a trial and error process, as it is with all photography. The following are some basic high key photography settings that you can experiment with during your high key photography shoot:

1. Shutter speed: Set your shutter speed to overexpose your image. This will ensure that your photo is properly lit to achieve the high key look.

2. Aperture: Use a fast, wide aperture.

3. ISO: Set your ISO to 100 or whatever the lowest ISO your camera can handle.

4. Exposure compensation: If you're using aperture priority, use exposure compensation to boost the exposure by two to three stops.


3 Tips for Shooting High Key Photography

It's time to start shooting now that you have the proper photography equipment and have studied some basic camera settings. Practice is essential to becoming a good high-key photographer. As you shoot more high-key images, you'll develop your own style. Here are some photography tips to help you get started on your first few high-profile shoots:

1. Disperse the light. Make use of as much light as possible, and ensure that it fills the space in which you are working. If possible, light your subject from all sides to reduce shadows and contrast. When it comes to high key photography, remember that less is not more. Because you're attempting to create an unnaturally lit image, you can afford to go overboard with the lighting. If your light sources are limited, use a diffuser to spread the available light.

2. Make use of shadows. Just because you're attempting to reduce shadows in general doesn't mean that high key photography doesn't occasionally include shadows. Fill lights should be used to fill in the majority of the shadows cast by your main lights. However, some shadows are not available, particularly when shooting outside in natural light.

3. Post-production. Editing and post-processing are critical for high-key photography. You try to blow out your subjects with an abundance of light during high key shoots. You can reduce the lighting in post-processing and editing to ensure that enough detail is visible in your images.

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