Wednesday, January 23, 2013

What Key is That?


Have you ever played around with high key photography? Are you seeing that word for the first time and wondering what the heck I'm talking about?  The first thing you notice about high key photos is the brightness.  They are bright and cheerful.  There are also less midtones and shadows.  If you were to look at the histogram of a high key image it would mostly be clustered to the right (the bright tones).  

I have to be honest....I don't always go out intending to shoot high key.  In fact, a lot of times I overexpose a photograph and when downloading it I realize that this would make a fantastic black and white high key image.  I totally blew out the image above.  In fact, I almost trashed it but for some reason I decided to try converting it to black and white to see what would happen.  It ended up a bright and dreamy image that I really loved.  So don't be so quick to trash those overexposed photos.  With some post processing fun they may end up being happy accidents!

This is an example of a planned high key photo.  I backlit my subject by having her back against a west facing window in the afternoon.  Directly across from her is another window that faces east which provided some nice diffused light.  The reason behind overexposing the shot is that with the light hitting the subject and the light reflected from the background your camera meter will tend to underexpose the shot to get a correct exposure, that’s why you need to over expose by a stop or two so that you get an image without the high contrasts.

A recipe for high key images looks something like this.
  • a bright neutral background
  • find an area with diffused light
  • overexpose your image by a couple stops
  • think about your composition and the features you want to focus on
  • use post processing to bring back in some of the detail  

Have some high key images to share with us?  We'd love to see them in our Flickr pool!  Tag your photos #focusingonlife and share with us on Instagram.  

And don't forget our January Focus is quotes for the new year.  Share some of your favorites with us!



16 comments:

Barbara said...

Your planned high key photo is stunning! This week I've been experimenting with overexposure and histogram... and trashed all of my images :(

Thanks for sharing your high key tips.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
CarolHart said...

I love high key photography but admit that I don't plan enough of them. Thanks for the inspiration!

heyjudephotography said...

I love shooting high key photography, but have to admit, sometimes mine are happy accidents as well! You gave some great tips. I hope everyone tries this - they will definitely get some beautiful photos like yours.

terriporter said...

Great tips, Leigh! I'm like Carol and don't do this enough. And like Judy, the ones I do get are usually by accident. I want to use your tips and see what I can get on purpose!

Leigh said...

Thank you Barbara! It's fun (and a bit nerve wracking) to play around with something new.

Leigh said...

It's really fun for a fresh way of looking at things!

leigh said...

Something new and different to play around with!

Leigh said...

I can't wait to see them Terri!

Nancy said...

Aside from it being a beautiful shot is is a beautiful child...

http://vivhalliwell.com said...

Stunning looking forward to seeing more....

Cathy H. said...

I need to try this more often! That first image is stunning!

Dotti said...

Fun post and great reminder for us to be more purposeful about high key photography. So often as photographers we get so intense about perfect exposure that I think we forget to try artistic exposures more often. Lovely shot of Molly! Now the sun is coming in my windows and I have some pretty tulips ... sounds like a perfect combination for high key photography.

Claudia@DipityRoad said...

You are so right about not automatically trashing the over exposed. I love my lightroom and I have recently found some great keepers had i done my typical culling.

Love BOTH of your shots. You always give me such great things to think about!

Hugs GF

KAtie said...

Great tips! I'll have to try this out sometime.

Kim Stevens said...

Just wonderful Leigh! I love playing with high and low key exposures, but have to admit low key is what I do most of. I think my camera "Nicki" (lol) gets frustrated with me because I rarely listen to what she tells me. I'm all about the creative process lately....the photos are so beautiful, especially that one of your daughter!

Post a Comment

Thank you for sharing part of your day with us. If for any reason you are unable to leave a comment here on this post, please leave your comment on our Facebook page or in our Flickr discussion group. We love hearing from you!

 
© Focusing On Life