How to Create a High-Key Image in 5 easy steps!

High-key images are those that are set against a bright background and have few shadows. They can be in black and white or maintain some color, but generally are of subjects that are dark or have dark elements, and are shown in a bright environment. They tend to have a clean, modern appearance as this leopard image, below.

So what are the steps?

  • First, as mentioned, start with a dark or high contrast subject, with a clean background. The cleaner, the better.
  • In camera, you’ll want to overexpose, usually by one or two full stops. Make sure that the histogram shows to the far right.
  • Then in Lightroom, adjust the light. You may need to increase the exposure again as well as increase the whites and up the shadows. Decrease (move the slider to the left) the blacks and highlights.
  • Give the image final touches: a slight increase of clarity, mask and sharpen and possibly add a white vignette. Check to see if you prefer black and white or color. I often leave just a touch of color in the image.
  • If there is too much clutter in the background, you may want to clean it up with your masking tool. Alternatively, you might choose to desaturate the colors.

That’s it! Feel free to play with any sliders to accomplish the look you want. Each image is different and you should adjust accordingly.

I use the desktop version of Lightroom for my professional photos (which are taken in RAW). You can make similar adjustments in the free version of Lightroom on your mobile phone – it’s just more difficult to make very slight adjustments.

Here are a couple other favorites of mine:

High-key image of a hippo in water
Notice the touch of pink in his eyes.
High-key image of two elephants walking in a river
Nearly all B&W, but a touch of color in the water reflection

I love the look of high-key images and they are so easy to create. I especially love them, as in the first image, with a white mat and black frame. Otherwise, my favorite media for print is metal! Lightweight and fade-resistant, they make high-key images stand out above all!

Save this post:

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *