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!