Best Tips to Shoot High Key Photography

What Is High Key Photography?

High Key Photography

High key is a photographic technique where the exposure is set to over expose the shadows. This creates an effect of light reflecting off the subject making them appear brighter and less shadowy. The lighting will be a bit more contrasty, but it will still look very natural.

High key photography is using natural light and avoiding artificial lighting such as flash. Natural light is generally more flattering to your subjects, as it gives a softer look. This style of photography is most commonly used in portrait photography.

What Is Low Key Photography?

Low key photography is a style of photography that aims to capture a moment in time, whether you are shooting landscapes, portraits, or street shots.

Many photographers use low key photography to create a more intimate portrait of their subject. They aim to create images that are not flashy or that demand attention.

They create scenes that are relaxed and easy to relate to, using settings and poses that are familiar, even comfortable. This style of photography is often used in portraiture.

It’s about capturing moments that are unique.

Tips to Shoot High Key Photography

High Key Photography

High key photography is great fun and easy to learn if you follow the below steps. For high key pictures, use a light source which is bright but not glaring – in the morning, a sunny window or the setting sun is ideal, in the afternoon, a street lamp or car headlights work well.

Step 1

Adjust the camera

If you are photographing indoors, set the aperture to f8 or wider, to avoid overexposing the subject, and open up the shutter speed to about 1/250 sec – the camera should freeze the action.

For a photo outside, set the shutter speed to 1/500 sec, then take your photograph. The picture will be under-exposed, which will allow detail in the sky and clouds and make the subject look warmer and more appealing. If you wish, you can increase the exposure by one stop (by using an f-stop of 2) and take another shot.

To add contrast to a scene, use flash. Place the flash where there is a wall, a tree, or a bright object that reflects light, and turn off the built-in flash.

If you are taking a close-up photograph, make sure that you position the subject far away from the lens. This will create depth and help to add interest to the image.

Step 2

High Key Photography

Select a suitable backdrop

You can use a neutral colour as a backdrop, such as white, grey, or black. However, a colourful or patterned background adds interest.

Choose the backdrop carefully; it should not distract from the subject. For example, if you are photographing a group of people, you should not use a patterned wall, or the pattern may show up on the subject.

Step 3

Light the scene

A bright, soft light works best, so find a source of light which is not too harsh and is at eye level.

Turn off the main lights in your house. In the daytime, use a window to bounce sunlight. If the room is large, put a piece of cardboard in front of the window and tape it down.

In the evening, use the light coming through the curtains or a table lamp. If you are taking photographs in the early hours of the morning, turn on a kitchen or bathroom light.

You may want to experiment with a variety of light sources to find what works best for your subject.

Step 4

Select the shutter speed and aperture

Set the shutter speed to 1/250 sec, which is fast enough to freeze the movement of people and still let you see detail in the sky and clouds.

Set the aperture to about f8 or larger, to avoid overexposing the subject.

Step 5

Focus the camera

Hold the camera firmly and use a tripod. Aim the camera at the subject, and turn on autofocus. Set the focus point to infinity (the camera will calculate the distance and will be able to select the nearest object to the focus point).

Step 6

Take the photograph

Hold down the shutter button and take the picture.

Step 7

Review the photograph

Check the focus and the sharpness of the picture. If you are happy with the result, remove the memory card from the camera, and place it in a safe place.

If you wish, you can make the picture brighter and contrast it further by increasing the exposure by one stop, or you can make the picture darker and add contrast by decreasing the exposure by one stop.

Use high key to make a beautiful, romantic photograph of the two of you, to celebrate your relationship.


The secret to taking high-quality images is understanding that photography is an art. You have to be able to see the potential in everything you shoot. You have to be able to see a picture in your head.

This is where high key photography comes in. This is the opposite of low key photography. Low key photography tends to look flat and dull. You know the type of photos where it looks like the subject is wearing sunglasses, or a hat, or a hoodie, etc.