Low/High Key Photographs

The below photo was shot in a studio setup. It was intentional to shoot on a white background and overexpose slightly to minimize contrast and lighten shadows. It was difficult to not overexpose too much and lose the detail in the glass topper. I had to balance that issue with the slightly grey background as it was hard to fully blow out the background to completely white without the photo looking off, even with the adjustment brush. As high key is the opposite of low key, its key tones are high. I used a fair amount quantity flat lighting of the studio lights to help reduce contrast and shadows and so I could precisely control the dark tones. High key photos usually have subjects that are feminine in nature, such as the perfume bottle with the pearls that I choose.

IMG_0215-2

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Low key photography makes use of dark tones and colours; the main feature of a low key photograph is the depth created by the shadows. Low photography means the image’s key tones are low. This particular photo has most of its keys tones on the left side of the histogram. The intention is to direct the viewers’ attention directly to the illuminated subject, by keeping everything else in the shadows. High key images feel airy, light and rich, while low key images feel dramatic and full of mystery.

The lights are reflected on the glass from the window light; there is also some pink form the curtains. The shadows in the upper right side of the perfume bottle hide that part of the subject, like it is disappearing into the shadows as its tone is deepened gradually. The form of the bottle is emphasized here by highlighting all the edges that the natural light hit.

In the below low key photo, solely natural lighting was used. I made sure the subject received more light than its background which was already fairly dark. I tried to keep the side away furthest from the window relatively darker. (It was a dark grey wall) Exposure was further changed with the adjustment brush in Lightroom. By controlling the light I feel I made a fairly boring glass object more mysterious.

IMG_0170     IMG_0170         Before and after post-production adjustments in Lightroom.

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I really like the simplicity of low key photographs by emphasizing the subject with light and contrast.  High key photography also fits with my photographic style as it is effective for product and upscale photography and I like the clean, high quality look it conveys.

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