Photography Challenge with Sue Karski

A Weekly Photo Themed Blog

Week 5 – # 15 High Key

on September 2, 2013

White Flower

Following my tradition, I am  ready to take photos but of course, it is raining again, so I am now tackling the photography technique called High Key.  So what is High Key?  High Key photography involves a large amount of light tones and fewer mid-tones or shadows.  High key photography uses unnaturally bright lighting to blow out most or all harsh shadows in an image.  But be careful – I do not mean that you should have any blown or over exposed portions.  You should not have any “Blinkies”.

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. This method is perfect for a subject that is funny, lighthearted or beautiful.

High key photography seeks to eliminate harsh shadows and create a bright environment. It is generally used to convey an upbeat, funny or beautiful subject but can be manipulated to communicate a number of moods and concepts.

You see high key used regularly for model photography, flowers and other subjects that are relatively feminine in nature. Another area perfect for high key is product photography. Practically speaking, the bright nature of the photo really highlights the product and can make for some great attention-grabbing contrast. Psychologically speaking, a product shown on white tends to suggest that it is high quality or upscale in nature.

This photo was taken at ISO 100, at 98mm, F6.3, with EV +1 2/3, 0.4 sec, Aperture priority, Spot metering.  Now I do not have a studio, so this was done in my dining room, on the table, with a white sheet on the table and one end raised up for the backdrop.  I also do not have studio lighting so this was done with lamps, floor and regular, two behind the flower to light the backdrop, and two on either side of the camera, one higher than the camera and one even with it.  I tried to keep it as simple as possible working with just what I had (other than getting the flower).


22 responses to “Week 5 – # 15 High Key

  1. shelby1120 says:

    Well done, and also a good set of tips for others to try something like this at home.

  2. mtphotoii says:


    Tx for the high key thoughts.

  3. George says:

    Thank you for the educational blog. I appreciate you sharing it with all of us. I had no idea what
    “High Key” was.

  4. terrykees says:

    You are so nice to share all the details and to explain this high key concept. The photo is beautiful and classy.

  5. preed913 says:

    another lovely flower photo! – I really like your explanation of high key and what it is meant to convey – we’re learning all the time! I always think of baby photos when i think of high key and I guess that works with your description.

    • Sue Karski says:

      Ahh yes, High Key is used a lot in portraiture and baby photos. But there are many other uses. And It is easier for me to get a flower than a baby – and a lot easier to photograph too. lol

  6. lbblanchard says:

    Sue: That’s definitely a WOW photo. Very well done indeed.

  7. lauramacky says:

    Ethereal! I love it!

  8. Beautiful and thanks for the instructions!

  9. tnwaltz says:

    I have never attempted high key photography and have been holding off on this theme. After reading your explanation, I’ll begin thinking about what I should do.

    • Sue Karski says:

      Mary Nell, lots of lights. Lol. Remember you would need to adjust your white balance depending on the type of lights, else you will have a color cast. Go for it. I had no idea whether I could pull it off when I started but it all came together. Just play. Keep photography fun.

  10. lauradorsey says:

    Great info. Thanks for sharing – love to learn new things. Beautiful photo.

  11. thegatorgal says:

    Good tutorial on high-key, and great photograph!

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