How to shoot low key photography

I was recent commissioned to do a studio shoot and the client required some shots done in low key. I had previously learnt how to shoot low key through a friend but never shot a job so I decided to brush up my skills and read up on the subject.

For those of you who are not familiar, low key photography is shooting a subject with limited light to highlight certain features or contour of the subject. This is normally done with a single strobe or even natural light with dark backgrounds.

As I read through tutorials online I came across an interesting article that showed a technique to shoot low key without having to shoot in a dark room with a black backdrop.

All you need to do is set your aperture to f16 or higher and make sure that when you take a shot with no flash that the image is pitch black. Then you set up a strobe to light your subject. This effect works just as well as a dark room and is much more convenient as this can be done anywhere, the only thing you need to make sure is that your subject is not close to anything that would bounce light from your flash.

Here are some examples I did with a dark room and some shots with just a dark curtain.

The first two shots were shot in the dark room with a matt black backdrop. It was quite a small room so I couldn't position the models further away from the backdrop to get a pitch black background. Although it can be easily fixed in photoshop I still prefer to get it right from the shoot.

You notice with the second set that I managed to get a pitch black background for these shots.

I tried the method I mentioned earlier in a much brighter part of the studio, but you see the end results works even better. I was pleasantly surprised and I'm sure I'll keep this trick for future jobs.

I hope you found this article helpful!

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