Creating a High-Key Look

High-key lighting has a great look to it. It can be very clean and can be fun or elegant or edgy, depending of course on a few other factors of the shoot, such as makeup, hair, clothing, model/client, etc.

For this shoot, I wanted a clean and elegant type of look, almost bridal. I had a white dress I bought recently just waiting to be used for a photo shoot and some white flowers that I knew would be perfect to give the overall feel I wanted. I took a few images with those two components alone and nothing on the head. However, upon looking at the images on my laptop, I felt something was missing. So, I decided to throw on a piece of tulle in the model's hair for an added fashion feel and look. So, I took a piece of white tulle and tied it in a bow. To me, that completed this whole look!

Lighting Setup

For the lighting, I wanted to keep it as minimal as possible to show people you do not need many lights to pull off this type of look and do it well. I went with two lights. We had a Profoto D1 500 Air behind the model with a 5 ft octabox attached to be the backdrop/backlight. This light was giving a wraparound effect just a bit. The model was really close to it, as you can see in the video. Then, I used another Profoto D1 with the Profoto Beauty Dish as my main light. The results were lovely and came out just as I wanted them to. This is such a great setup to know how to do, and clients really enjoy it. If you have not tried this type of look, I recommend that you give it a go!

Here are some of the images.

Equipment List

My Team

Model: Sofie Berg  | MUA: Zahra Isabelle

Dana Cole's picture

Dana Cole is a beauty and portrait photographer and retoucher who resides in Oslo, Norway.

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Wonderful results!

Thank you kindly Jorge :)

Thank you for your input Ivan! :)

This links to a desaturated washed-out looking picture of a boob for anyone curious.

Possibly... but it is a high key washed out looking picture of a boob... unlike the images in the post above. Bright background does not equal high key.

Thanks for giving me two minutes back on my life for such a garbage shot 🤣

Sorry but this is absolutely not hi key……
Hi key should look more to something like this (even if this is not so good)

thanks for the input !

He's right, High Key is a properly exposed image that stacks all the tones on the right of the histogram, not just photographed on white, nor is it overexposing an image.

Seems it is a very common mistake. If you search for High Key images a large % will be like the OP's. A normal exposure with a bright white background. Many people don't understand the technique and unfortunately the OP's video isn't going to do anything to correct that.

This article should include the camera and flash settings

ah yeah, forgot to put them in as they were in the video but it was
100 iso

Perfect, thanks Dana

Very nice! I like the look and feel. I don't tend to shoot this style but after seeing this want to experiment with a similar setup!
Thank you!

thank you Mark.. Definitely give it a go and see what you come up with :)

Beautiful shots. Gorgeous model, great hair and makeup and stellar retouching. Thanks for sharing.

thank you kindly Jared !

Beautiful shots Dana1