Shooting High Key with a Speedlight

Today’s post by Joe Farace

I found that it was quite possible to make a high key portrait using a speedlight as in today’s portrait of my former muse—Tia Stoneman.

(I’m still looking for a muse. If you know any who’s interested, please have them contact me though Contact directly above.)

One of my favorite features of DSLRs or mirrorless cameras is exposure compensation.  Sometimes you have to push two buttons or turn a control wheel to activate this control and lets you increase or decrease the camera’s selected exposure settings in half or one-third stops to fine tune an image’s exposure.

Typically when setting up  an available light portrait, I made some test shots. After making an exposure I look at the image and its histogram. Then I’ll often make another exposure using the camera’s Exposure Compensation controls to produce the best possible exposure for that particular subject and its lighting conditions.

Some cameras have a flash compensation feature; this is the flash version of exposure compensation that lets you adjust the output of the built-in flash or a speedlight to increase or decrease it’s output to produce a look you want in the final photograph.

How I made this shot: I photographed Tia in my former home, basically wearing her undergarments and wrapping herself in some swirly material she brought to the shoot. I used a Pentax K100D’s flash compensation mode to increase the flash amount from a Pentax AF540FGZ speedlight to give this portrait of Tia a high-key look. Lens was a Schneider D-XENON 50-200mm f/4-5.6 at 95mm with a final exposure of 1/125 sec at f/5.6 and ISO 800. The vignette Blur feature of Color Efex Pro was used to add softness to the edges of the photograph.


If you enjoyed today’s blog post and would like to treat me to a cup of Earl Grey tea ($2.50), please click here. And if you do, thanks so much.

My book Joe Farace’s Glamour Photography is full of tips, tools and techniques for glamour and boudoir photography and includes information on all of the cameras used as well as the complete exposure data for each image. New books are available from Amazon for $27.43 with used copies starting at $5.57 as I write this, which seems like a bargain. Kindle version is $11.99 for those preferring a digital format.