How to Use Low Key Lighting for Amazing Photography

Low Key Lighting

Low Key Lighting

Low key lighting is a subtle approach to lighting photography that can be used successfully with dramatic portraits. Low key lighting can be done using ambient light coming through windows or skylights, or simply natural light. The key is to find the best angle of sunlight and to position yourself where it hits you straight on. It can be done by putting yourself in the sunlight in the early morning, afternoon or evening hours, and just turning around to face the light. As you turn around, you will see the light as a silhouette against the sky. As you move further away from the sun, the light will soften and look more diffuse.

The ideal time to photograph this is early morning, late evening or anytime during the day that is overcast, or at sunset or twilight. It can also be used for portraits that are in a dimly lit room. The key to using low key lighting effectively is to wait until you have the correct light and timing.

You will notice the difference between ambient and low key lighting in the following images. The first image was taken under daylight with the camera set at F1.8, ISO 200, and 1/80 second. The second image was taken at F4.5, ISO 800, and 1/125 second. The third image was taken at F11, ISO 1600, and 1/30 second. The fourth image was taken at F5.6, ISO 400, and 1/60 second. The fifth image was taken at F7.1, ISO 100, and 1/80 second.

Tips for Low Key Lighting Photography

Low Key Lighting is used as a technique to control the amount of light hitting the subject. In this case, the subject is a woman wearing a red dress. Low key lighting creates a soft glow around her, making her look beautiful.

What to look for:

The first step to creating low key lighting is to find a setting where there is no strong directional light source. This will allow the light to be softer and less direct. For this picture we took the photograph in a low lit room that was fairly bright. If you are photographing outside, there may be direct sunlight and the light source is obviously strong.

You need to make sure that the area where the subject is being photographed is dimly lit. Look for a location that has natural light or indirect lighting coming in through windows or other sources.

If the light source is strong, look for a way to soften it. A window shade, a small wall lamp or a table lamp is all you need. Try putting some soft white, diffused sheets over the light source to diffuse the light even further.

How to do it:

Using your camera on manual, set the ISO at 200, the aperture to f/4 and choose a shutter speed of 1/125th of a second. Make sure that you have a neutral colored background for your subject. Position your subject to face away from the light source and the background and focus on the eyes.

To create the soft look, adjust your flash settings and place the flash in the upper left corner. This will add a nice soft glow to the picture.

In post production, we used a slight vignette to create a soft look to the photo. We also increased the exposure to make the image brighter.


Lighting does not only come from the camera. You can create different looks by playing around with your lights and backgrounds.

In fact, it is much easier to light the background than the subject. Lighting the background is not only more affordable, but it gives you a lot more freedom to play around with.

I am having trouble choosing where to place my light source, and I am not sure whether to use fill flash, a reflector, or both. I want to use a diffuser in order to soften my shadows. Is it possible to use a diffuser and a reflector simultaneously? How do you choose what lights you need?

In a portrait, you need a main light source (usually either a main light or a fill light) in order to create shadows on the face and the subject’s form. In a scene where there is more space, you can use a main light with a diffusion material, and use fill flash to lighten the subject.

If you want to lighten the background, you can use a main light or fill light and add a reflector to bounce some of the light off the wall or ceiling. A reflector is a light source placed behind the subject that bounces the light off the subject and onto the background. You will need to experiment to find the most flattering position for the reflector.

The following guidelines will help you to decide on the best method for you:

Use a light meter to measure the light falling on the subject. The meter will give you a measurement in f/stops which you can use to compare the results of different light sources.

You can then calculate how much fill light you will need. The formula is as follows:

Fill Light = fstop – fstop

The fstop value tells you what aperture you will need, for example, f/5.6 means that your lens will open to 5.6mm.

For fill flash, a rule of thumb is to calculate 1/3 of the amount of the main light to use for fill flash. So, if your subject is lit by a main light set at f/5.6, you will need a flash of around f/8 to balance the light.

For fill flash, you will usually need a small light bouncing off a wall or ceiling to balance the light from the main light.

If you have a large room, you can use two lights and bounce one light off the ceiling and the other off the floor. Alternatively, you can place a second light in front of the camera, which will make your subject look more evenly lit.

When using a reflector, you need to be aware that it will usually cast a shadow on the subject, which means the light will fall in the wrong place. If the reflector is placed too close to the subject, the light will fall onto the reflector, making the shadow in the opposite direction.

There are two ways to overcome this problem. The first is to place the reflector further away from the subject, but this means the subject will look too dark. The second solution is to use a diffuser. A diffuser is a material which you apply to the light source. It will diffuse the light and soften the shadow, making the subject appear more natural.

Once you have calculated the amount of fill light required, you will need to decide whether to use a main light with a diffusion material, or a main light with a reflector. There is no single correct answer to this question, as it depends on the composition. For example, if your subject is in the foreground, you will want to use a main light to balance the light, so you will need to use a diffusion material.

A diffuse material will soften the shadow, but you will have to experiment to find the most flattering result. You can use a scrim to diffuse the light, but it will limit the angle of view. You can also use a softbox with a Diffusion Panel to soften the shadow, but the light will come from above the subject, causing the light to fall unevenly.

If you are planning to use a reflector, you will need to experiment with the position of the reflector. You will usually find that the reflector needs to be in the same plane as the main light to give the correct light balance.

You will also need to be aware that reflectors may distort the shape of the subject, so you will have to adjust the position of the reflector until you are happy with the image.

A reflector will also change the position of the light, which may make it difficult to achieve a good exposure.

For fill flash, you will usually use the same light as the main light. However, if the subject is in the background, you will need to place a reflector behind the subject, which will bounce the light into the background, which will balance the light.

You can use a reflector to lighten the background, but you will have to experiment to find the most flattering position. You may want to place the reflector at a 45 degree angle to the main light, which will mean the reflector light will fall onto the top edge of the subject, balancing the light.

Alternatively, you could place a reflector at a 90 degree angle to the main light, which will cause the light to fall onto the front edge of the subject, balancing the light.

When choosing your lights, remember that they need to be powerful enough to balance the light coming from your main light. You may need to change the position of your lights to achieve the most flattering results.

Remember to choose your lights carefully, and to experiment with different positions to see which work best for you.