More down and dirty high key

April 23, 2011

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A down-and-dirty highkey black and white.

A down-and-dirty highkey black and white.

The Phottix Journal has written a few posts on high key photography. It’s a difficult art to master – getting your whites white can be a frustrating exercise of trial and error.

With a few spare moments at the Beijing P&E Photography Expo we decided to experiment a little. The background of this image is a 180 cm white shoot-through umbrella illuminated by a 800W studio strobe. The key light was a 500W studio strobe modified with a 60 x 100 m softbox. The model held a reflector at waist level (notice the catchlight).

Balancing the background light and key light was a matter of trial and error (aided initially by a Sekonic meter).  Zack Arias recommends the background light be two stops higher than the key light. This would have been easier if two identical strobes were used, instead of off-the-cuff math.

The image was converted to greyscale in post production.


  1. Down-and-dirty high key with the Phottix Hydra 8
  2. Photo Tip: Quick high key photos
  3. Lighting Tip: Soft light with a “reflector”
  4. Photo tip: Go high – go low.
  5. White background photo resources: Getting your whites whiter

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