Jeremy H. Greenberg | Blog #99 High-Key

Blog #99 High-Key

March 30, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

Blog #99 High-Key

There are many techniques involved in making images.  You can use various films, papers, screens, and even other materials like canvas, metal, or wood. There are also many ways to present the image itself.  There is the “properly” exposed image which in itself is debatable although the camera can usually do this by itself when set to auto exposure mode. 

During a traditional portrait shoot and lighting, the “Key” or main light is usually placed near the camera or slightly camera left or right.  The “fill” is then placed almost 90 degrees to the key or main light to do exactly what you might expect which is to fill up the shadows made from the key light with more light.  The fill is usually less than the key but it can be equal to the key for evenly spread light.  This type of lighting is common in professional portraits, headshots, advertising, commercial, fashion, and product photography. The subject should be well lit in these types of images.  

Nikon D610

Then there is High Key or Low Key for example.  Low Key or Film Noir types of images tend to be dark and moody.  There is an air of mystery or even a downright eerie feeling to low-key shots.  High-Key images have a lack of contrast or low contrast.  Shadows are minimal to non-existent. They are light, airy, and tend to have an uplifting mood to them.  Portraits tend to have a dreamy or even an angelic quality.  Some very high-key images tend to have a penciled or sketched effect to them.  

Each [high or low-key] represents a lighter or darker rendition of the properly exposed image to accentuate the mood of the image. Light vs. dark, yin vs. yang, good vs. evil, and on and on. 

Although High-Key images can be presented in black and white or colour, black and white is the more common. 


Black and white are the colours of photography.  To me they symbolise the alternatives of hope and despair to which mankind is forever subjected.

Robert Frank


I agree with Mr. Frank. 


The light is always right.



*Images: © Jeremy H. Greenberg 

Where: Hong Kong

Subject:  Various Portrait, Street Photography, and Urban Landscapes 

Gear: Fujifilm Mirrorless, Nikon 35mm film cameras

Nikon D610 Nikon D610 Nikon D610 Nikon D610 Nikon D610 Nikon D610 Nikon D610 Nikon D610 Nikon D610 Nikon D610


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