If high-key images are all about brightly lit overexposed images, low-key images are all about images that are underlit and have an overabundance of dark tones. Please note that low key isn’t only about underexposing images. It also involves a lot of contrast in the images.
A good thing about low-key images is that they don’t require expensive lights and many reflectors and other tools that can spread the light and eliminate shadows. If you’re a beginner photographer looking for a genre to experiment with that does not involve a lot of investment, you can try low-key photography.
Remember low key photography is all about contrast, dark tones, and shadows. So it needs as little light as possible. You can’t photograph without light, but in low-key photography, you need to focus that light and channel it to capture a unique image. That’s why you need at least one light to channel that light into producing the desired effect.
It would help if you also had some black backdrops. This will ensure that the light from the key light does not spread around. Remember, you need to focus on the light and channel it.
Camera techniques to use when shooting low-key images
When shooting low-key photography, try using the lowest ISO number you can. Lower ISO will ensure less noise and a darker image. Also, try and use a smaller aperture. Smaller apertures ensure that the lens lets in less light, automatically producing a darker image. Another thing to remember is that you should be using a faster shutter speed. A fast shutter speed invariably captures less light and adds to the overall effect. If you use exposure compensation, dial the exposure compensation to negative 1 to 2.
Low-key images are shot the best when you’re using a single light. You can use several lighting styles to produce low-key lighting using a single light. One of them is Rembrandt lighting. This is a classical lighting technique and one that has been made famous by the Dutch painter Rembrandt. The result of this lighting is that the darker side of the subject’s face has a triangle on it. Remember, this is always used for portrait lighting. This lighting technique will not work with products.
When editing your low-light photos, ensure that you don’t try to push your shadows to recover them too much. Some pure black tone adds to the overall feel of the image. But at the same time, ensure that your contrasts, sharpness, and noise are down.