Low-key photography has the characteristics of dark-colored scenes and emphasizing natural or artificial light only on specific areas in the frame. This photographic style can be used to create an mysterious atmosphere that only suggests various shapes, often graphic, letting the viewer experience it through subjective interpretation. It’s not even necessary to stand in a dark room.With at least one flash you can make such an atmospheric photo. Just give it a try!
Topics for low-key photography
You can use different topics for low-key photography. You can use people, animals or objects. Don’t make a low-key photo too complicated. All you need is a camera and at least one external flash. Also a tripod is desirable when you photograph in a darkened situation or environment. With flash photography it is important to first set the desired background lighting and then illuminate your object with the flash.
For a low-key image we want an image that is much darker. Choose manual exposure and set the shutter speed. Then choose the ISO value to set it as low as it will go. Next thing to do is to set the aperture for the desired exposure and depth of field. Is your photo not dark enough yet? Set your ISO value lower or reduce your aperture a little more. Once your photos are pitch black you can get started with your fletchers. The trick is to minimize the light entering the camera while not making anything too dark.
Light and environment
To have the right effect you must work very accurately, because you want as little light as possible to fall into the background. You just want to have some light accents. Frontal light therefore does not work so well with low-key. It would be better if the light falls from the side or from the back. If you want to increase the contrast, use a very bright light.
Outside low-key photography
A great way to get some nice low-key shots without spending a fortune on lighting is to venture outside at night. Here nature takes care of the darkness element and you need only to find a good light source. Moonlights and streetlights are obviously great places for creating really dramatic shots.
Black and white photography
Black and white is a popular choice as it brings light to the shadows. You work a lot with contrasts and it seems ideal for low-key photography. Therefore it is easier to work with black and white. It’s much easier to make a background darker without having to worry about color changes.
Experimenting with low-key photos
Making a good low-key photo is clearly more than just adjusting the lighting. You will have to experiment a lot to see when you can get the right effect. Once onder control you have a nice technique to make your photos even more powerful and to send the viewer into what you want to say. It is certainly not a simple trick and that makes a good low-key photo just as interesting.