High key, low key

Ex­per­i­ment with the clas­sics of over­all near-white and its op­po­site of dark with high con­trast

NPhoto - - Nikopedia -

The ex­tremes of over­all bright­ness and con­trast are high-key and low-key images. Be­cause they push the lim­its of tonal range, they tend to be more a fea­ture of black and white than of colour. A high-key treat­ment de­pends on a large area and high value of white­ness, and on high con­trast. For it to work well, there usu­ally need to be some smaller, darker el­e­ments that are in­te­gral to the im­age. Rais­ing the bright­ness and con­trast throws em­pha­sis on what­ever darker ar­eas re­main. The boat on the lake above was shot in colour, and not as high-key as the re­sult here, but it lent it­self well to the high-key treat­ment. At this time of day, the moun­tains and sky in the re­flec­tion are bathed in blue, and so can be light­ened se­lec­tively dur­ing the con­ver­sion. This was done by rais­ing the blue strongly, also cyan and red to a lesser de­gree, and this whitened the im­age over­all with­out af­fect­ing the boat.

Low-key also re­sponds to thought­ful pro­cess­ing to main­tain the depth of shad­ows and the con­trast be­tween them and the small lit area. This ex­am­ple left is rea­son­ably con­ven­tional for low key; the set­ting is a dark in­te­rior, with weak side-light­ing that re­veals enough of the sub­ject to make it ob­vi­ous, and a back­ground that can, and prob­a­bly should, go to black.

A sin­gle row­ing boat on Al­tausseer See in Aus­tria. Early morn­ing blue light al­lowed these to be raised to very pale in con­ver­sion

A Shan man near Inle Lake, Myan­mar, stand­ing in a dark­ened room lit only by a small win­dow: a typ­i­cal low-key sit­u­a­tion

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