Out of Studio Thursday: In the Mood

by | Jun 10, 2021

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

We take a break from Studio Week to take a look at shooting on location—around my home, instead of in my home studio—to change up the mood.

Intimate Portraiture is all about creating a mood. There are two basic kinds of images—and many, many variations in between. Today we’ll look at low key and high key imagery.

How I Made This Shot: To create this (sort-of) low key glamour portrait, I photographed Erin Valakari in the living room of my Daisy Hill home using a Paul C. Buff DigiBee using (I think) an 18-inch Omni reflector at near camera position with window light used as fill. Camera  was my Panasonic Lumix GH4 with Lumix G Vario 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 lens (at 45mm.) Exposure was 1/15 sec at f/5.6 and ISO 320. While Low key images can be shot in color, I prefer to convert them in monochrome and in this case used Silver Efex Pro before softening with the Glamour Glow filter from Color Efex Pro.

Low-key lighting is a style of lighting that creates a chiaroscuro (strong contrasts between light and dark) effect by accentuating the contours of an object by throwing areas into shadow and usually only requires one light, maybe just the sun. A low key image is one that contains predominantly dark tones and colors and conveys atmosphere and mood. These kind of images are often done in black and white and can be similar in tone to film noir style photographs.

Low key pictures concentrate on the darker tones, conveying an atmosphere of mystery and use higher contrast lighting with most of the subject is in shadow and relatively brightly lit small areas, which is why I call this portrait a sort-of low key image.

High key photography is a style of photography that uses unusually bright lighting to reduce or completely blow out dark shadows in the image. High key shots usually lack dark tones and the high key look is generally thought of as positive and upbeat.

High key subjects typically consist on lighter tones, use soft lighting, and contain white or pale tones. High-key lighting is typically soft and free from dark shadows and often contains small darker areas, such as a subject’s eyes, to keep the portrait from being too boring.


How I Made This Shot: I photographed the indomitable Tia Stoneman in the kitchen of my former home using windowlight from the North-facing bay window supplemented by fill from a Pentax AF360FGZ II (I think) speedlight with Sto-Fen Omni Bounce diffuser attached. Camera used was a Pentax K100D with Schneider D-Xenon 50-200mm F4-5.6 lens (at 115mm.) Image was retouched and the a combination of the Glamour Glow and Vignette Blur filters from Color Efex Pro were added.

If you’re interested in learning how I shoot portraits and how I use cameras, lenses and lighting in my in-home studio and on location, please pick up a copy of Studio Lighting Anywhere which is available new from Amazon.com with for $31.88 or used starting at seven bucks, as I write this. The Kindle version is $19.99 for those preferring a digital format.