December 10, 2015 04:15


High key photography uses bright lighting to blow out most or all harsh shadows in an image. High key methods were originally developed as a solution to screens that couldn’t properly display high contrast ratios, but has developed into more of a stylistic choice. These images usually convey a positive or upbeat tone. This photography method is perfect for a subject that is funny, lighthearted or beautiful. We give you 3 easy tips that will help you take your perfect high key shot every time!



To create a solid white background like the photo below by Ankit Bhattacharjee, you need to completely overexpose your background without overexposing your subject. That means you’ll need much more light on your background than on your foreground subject. The magic number is 3 - three lights on your subject.

  1. The key light is off to one side and is your main source of light on the subject.  Having your key light to one side will likely produce harsh shadows on the opposite side of the subject. 
  2. Set up a less bright fill light to smooth out some of those areas. Shooting with only these two lights will produce a gray, shadow-filled background. 
  3. The background light can be provided a very powerful and free light source - the sun! It is recommended to add three stops of exposure compensation to properly expose faces. If you are indoors, eliminate the shadows by using one or two lights angled and pointed at your background.
Homemade Shoot by Ankit Bhattacharjee


In the photo below by Peter Brocklehurst, notice that the subjects/models are standing very close to the background. This is necessary to get the soft effects on the sides of their face. The farther you are to the lighting source, the harsher the lights get. So to create a soft light effect on the subject, get very close to the background, around 1-1.5 meters. Be aware that these lighting sources should not be direct on the model. 

The Eyes Have It by Peter Brocklehurst


You are definitely going to want to shoot at 100-200 ISO in a bright environment with an f-stop that’s high enough to give you a really bright scene. Feel free to shoot way up at f/11 or higher if you’re not aiming for a blurry background and don’t have strong enough lights to fill the area well. You’ll also want to lengthen your exposure to brighten the scene as much as you can without blowing out the highlights or causing blur from camera shake or model movement.

If you have any great high key photography to share, we want to see them! Upload them to our Market to be share by our global online community.

What are your favorite photography techniques? Leave a comment below OR chat with us Twitter or Facebook!

*Feature Photo: Little Angel by Hariadi Susilo


Comments • (2)
Ankit Bhattacharjee
December 10, 2015 06:48
you’ll not get the perfect shot every time, patience holds you together and experiments help you to explore new ideas.
CoinaPhoto Marketing
December 10, 2015 12:20
Great advice!

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