Dim the lights
Claire Gillo shows you how to use shadows for a low-key lighting effect
Use a simple desk-lamp to shoot stunning still-life masterpieces
Low-key lighting is great fun to use on an indoor shoot, and all it requires is a D-SLR, a tripod and a table lamp. You’ll also need a suitable subject to capture, of course – in this tutorial we’ve selected the classic ‘apples and pears’ for a still life setup. However, this lighting technique can also work well for indoor portraits, so keep this in mind if you’re looking for a more moody and atmospheric way to photograph people indoors.
Low-key lighting is not a new technique. Its history can be traced back to the Renaissance period, when artists would base their paintings on shadowed subjects emerging from darkened backgrounds, a technique known as ‘chiaroscuro’. In photography we can use the same lighting effect to create a highly atmospheric image.
In photography we can use low-key lighting to create an atmospheric effect… Shadows help sculpt and shape objects to give them a three-dimensional appearance
The trick is to use subdued tones and, instead of avoiding the usual ‘distracting’ shadows, to use them to your advantage! Shadows help sculpt and shape objects to give them a three-dimensional appearance.
In this tutorial we’ve used a lamp to help us illuminate our subject and softly highlight the bricks in the background. If you’d prefer, you could use natural light – however just be aware that it’s harder to control. If you’re unsure about how to light your subject, switch on Live View and have a play around with the different effects to see what you can get.