High key and low key – the features

Instead of a narrative explanation, we’ll just list down the features and differences between high key and low key images. Here goes:

High Key

JJBW90
1. Generally light and bright
2. Almost like overexposed
3. No real overexposure because there is no loss in details
4. Multiple light sources, controlled setting
5. Diffused lights to avoid harsh edges and shadows
6. Conveys a feeling of youthfulness, happiness and freshness
7. Used in fashion magazines, portraits, child and wedding photography

Low Key

JJBW97
1. Overall dark and black, either part of the subject or the whole background
2. Appears underexposed
3. No real underexposure because there is no loss in details
4. Uses high contrast to define edges and emphasize the subject’s form
5. Uses less light source, even one is enough
6. Adds mood, mystery and drama
7. Used in product photography such as jewelry and cars

High key and low key are techniques used to add emotional appeal and impact on images. Which is why they are popular in commercial and advertising photography. Beyond those purposes, you can apply high key and low key shots to highlight and put focus on subjects in a dramatic manner. They are tools in the photographer’s palette of creative shots. The above images were taken not in controlled studio settings but out in the real world using natural lighting. They were further tweaked during post-processing.

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4 responses

  1. Good explanation . Thank you .

    February 17, 2013 at 9:21 am

  2. Junsjazz

    You’re most welcome Anisja! thanks too!

    February 17, 2013 at 12:29 pm

  3. Just learned something new. Now I will look at my photos with brand new eyes!

    February 18, 2013 at 9:02 pm

    • Junsjazz

      Much thanks Mary-Anne!

      February 19, 2013 at 11:17 am

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