High Key Photo

I am participating in a 52 week photo challenge in the Click Through 2018 Facebook group. The theme for this week was “It’s all white”. When I read the theme announcement, for some reason I did not think of making photos in the snow. My mind jumped to creating a high-key portrait.

The nature of high-key photographs involves incorporating a great deal of light (usually white) to convey a bright and airy mood to the subject, with generally less contrast. So for the high key portrait I was envisioning, I wanted the background to be all-white and the model to be lit in a way to define shape and not appear flat. To accomplish this, I wanted a rim-light effect to give the model an outline, a key light positioned high and to camera left to define facial features by creating shadows of nose and jaw line and a fill light to make those shadows more subtle.

 
You can see that I see I used an umbrella softbox for the background and rim light.

You can see that I see I used an umbrella softbox for the background and rim light.

 

I do not have a studio, nor a lot of lighting gear because I’m still trying to figure things out and lighting gear can get as expensive as cameras and lenses. I did invest in three Yongnuo YN600EX-RTII speedlights for their cost and portability along with a Yongnuo YN-E3-RT transmitter to trigger them. These light allow me the capability of using TTL (through the lens metering) and HSS (high speed sync) because I capture portraits outdoors and like having the ability to darken ambient lighting. I have two Godox umbrella softboxes (about 36 inches) for their portability and inexpensive cost for being a modifier.

The image above shows the top of the umbrella softbox being utilized for the background for the high key portraits. The four images below walk through the process I took in adjusting the power in the speedlights.

 
Set the power of the speedlight in the back softbox so that the softbox appears all white when it fires and positioned it to give the light contours seen around the edge of face and chin, neck and shoulders. This was set at 1/8th power of my Yongnuo speedlight.

Set the power of the speedlight in the back softbox so that the softbox appears all white when it fires and positioned it to give the light contours seen around the edge of face and chin, neck and shoulders. This was set at 1/8th power of my Yongnuo speedlight.

Turned on the key light and started adjusting the power of the speedlight. Note the catch light from the key light in his eyes. I wanted the key light a little brighter than the image above. This was set with Yongnuo speedlight at 1/128 to 1/64th power.

Turned on the key light and started adjusting the power of the speedlight. Note the catch light from the key light in his eyes. I wanted the key light a little brighter than the image above. This was set with Yongnuo speedlight at 1/128 to 1/64th power.

 

Because of the small umbrella for a background, I needed to be somewhat tight with my composition and so I selected an 85mm lens. I put the camera into manual mode, set the ISO to 100, shutter speed to 1/160th of a second and aperture to f/2.8 as I wanted a shallow depth-of-field. I the proceeded to first set up the ambient light which was the umbrella softbox. For this I set the power of the speedlight 1/8th power of my Yongnuo speedlight so that the softbox appears all white when it fires. I then positioned it to give the light contours seen around the edge of face and chin, neck and shoulders. Increasing/decreasing the distance of subject to background changes the intensity of the light for these contours.

 
I was happy with the light level from the key light in this image above. This was with the Yongnuo speedlight set at 1/32th power. Note the shadows on the right side of the image. Time to add fill!

I was happy with the light level from the key light in this image above. This was with the Yongnuo speedlight set at 1/32th power. Note the shadows on the right side of the image. Time to add fill!

Added fill light. I started with 1/128th power and settled on 1/64th power so there is still some shadow on the subject’s face.

Added fill light. I started with 1/128th power and settled on 1/64th power so there is still some shadow on the subject’s face.

 

The next step, involves adjusting the key light. Note the catch light from the key light in his eyes. I wanted the key light a little brighter than the image above. I first started at 1/128 to 1/64th power and settled on 1/32th power. Now it’s time to reduce the intensity of the shadows on the right side of the image.

The final step for setting up the lights is adjusting the fill light. Unfortunately, due to not having a third stand nor another softbox, I made due with modifying the third Yongnuo speedlight I used for fill flash by using a bounce dome diffuser and setting it on a table just below subject’s eye level. I started with 1/128th power and settled on 1/64th power so there is still some shadow on the subject’s face. You can also get fill light by using a reflector if you do not have a third speedlight.

Below are some of the high key images captured once I dialed in the settings as described above. I had him turn a bit to give different shadows.

 
High key photo boy
 
 
High key photo boy 2
 
 
A little serious look looking right at camera in this high key image.

A little serious look looking right at camera in this high key image.

 
 
High key image boy 4
 
 
He was feeling a little sad in this high key image.

He was feeling a little sad in this high key image.

 
 
At 7 years old, sitting and modeling can get boring and so yelling every once in a while relieves the anxiety.

At 7 years old, sitting and modeling can get boring and so yelling every once in a while relieves the anxiety.

He is pretending to shiver in this one.

He is pretending to shiver in this one.