Saturday, July 5, 2008

Photography tutorial - high key

Hey there! So had you given up hope of me ever posting another photography tutorial?

Yeah, it's been awhile. Sorry 'bout that.

The truth is, I find if hard to believe there are people out that who value what I have to say about photography. I barely know what I'm doing! My photographic style is entirely self-taught and I just make it up as I go. It may not always be the right way but it works for me...and as I realized from last week's blog re-design saga others are interested in it too.

So I'll stop worrying about the right way to do things, and just show you my way. I will aim to post something photography related every Saturday. Please let me know what you want to hear about!

It's been a few weeks now since I posted some high key photos and got several requests to share how I achieved that effect. But since the first time it happened was a lucky accident, I didn't know what to tell you. I've been working on it since then, and can now recreate the effect with a combination of in-camera adjustments and post-processing.

Our goal here is to properly expose your subject while allowing the background to become overexposed. This works best on a very sunny day - the kind of day that's so harshly bright you'd usually consider it ill suited for pictures. You want to shoot into the light, and shooting at an upward angle helps (in other words, shoot from below your subject with the camera pointed up). A bright background like this would typically pose a challenge to properly expose the whole scene. But that's okay - we want to blow out the sky. I think spot metering would help with this, but since I have not yet explored different metering options I choose my exposure manually. Expose (or even slightly overexpose) for your subject's face, and *click* - you should have an image with your subject sharp but the background mostly bright white.

Something like this (except in a perfect world her right shoulder wouldn't be blown):


Now we're ready for the virtual darkroom.

I started off with my standard processing. A softlight or overlay layer really helps the subject stand out from the background.


Now either clone out everything in the background, or take a white brush and paint it out. And, well, that's it! Pretty easy!


Here are a few more example of this method put into action.

high key2

high key1
See how easy an all-white background makes it to recompose?!

high key3

It's fun stuff! I hope you enjoy experimenting with it - and if so, I hope you'll share your images!

Next week - making those eyes pop! Let me know what else you'd be interested in.


Michelle Potter said...

Very cool, Christina!

Nicki said...

I've recently fallen in love with highkey, too! When you did the B&W version did you desaturate first or do the high-key postprocessing first?

Joanna said...

Ooo-Ooo-Ooo - I cant wait to get my new camera and try this out!! Thanks for the tutorial!

Golightly said...

What great pictures, makes me want to be there. So Mayberry-ish!

Harrison got the memo...

Jaimee said...

Is it possible to properly expose backlit images like that without blowing out the sky?? If you know how, please do share, because I can't figure it out. I'm thinking that is where a reflector would come in nicely! But, I need one that you don't have to hold since I don't normally have an assistant!

Great tutorial...I love "blown" pictures even though they don't follow the typical photography rules!

Elaine A. said...

What a great tutorial. I may have to "try" this sometime...

alissasanderson said...

It works quite well! I like your do photography much like I do (learn as you go) and I can totally identify with your methods :-)

busickhall said...

Oh, I do love you and your tutorials so very much! I can't wait to try this!!!!

Stacy said...

Love seeing the before and afters - it is a neat effect. Hey now that you are going to post on Saturdays I can DEFINITELY be lazy (not that I wasn't already lazy)! ;)

laura - dolcepics said...

Awesome! Thanks for sharing. And I think it's great that you're showing us "your" way! After all, photography (and the processing) is all about showing your own style. I'll be trying more high key images for sure.

Arizaphale said...

Great to see you sharing your talent with everyone. I didn't even know what a high key image was! But I bet you're not surprised. I wish I had more time and patience to get to know my/his semi manual digital a little better. And getting photoshop would also be a good idea. *sigh* Oh well, one of these days. Meanwhile I'll keep enjoying the fruits of your talent.

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Anonymous said...

Thx! I was looking for a high key how-to and am excited to try your technique!