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Create a Stunning High Key Portrait Photograph at Home

There’s no need to hire a studio or use a complicated lighting set up to produce a stunning portrait photograph. High key is the term used to describe bright pictures taken with a white background, and it’s easy to produce this effect at home with a few simple pieces of equipment. The high key effect is particularly suited to children and female subjects.

A digital SLR camera or compact system camera is perfect for taking high key portrait pictures. Photo editing software can be used to increase the brightness of the shots and to ensure the background is pure white. A large window and a white background or a white sheet is the only other thing you need to produce professional looking portraits. Follow these simple steps and you’ll be amazed at the results.

  1. Position your model against a large bright window with white curtains or a white sheet behind them. Ideally, the sun should be behind the subject, but the shot will still work so long as there is light coming through the window.
  2. Set your camera to aperture priority and open the aperture wide to ensure lots of light passes through the lens. A wide aperture also helps to isolate the subject from the background. The bright background will lead to an underexposed image if you meter for the whole scene, so move close to the subject and take a reading from their face. If your camera has spot metering, use this to take an accurate meter reading from the subject’s flesh. If your camera has limited controls, use exposure compensation to boost the brightness.
  3. Use a reflector or flashgun to throw some light back into the person’s face. If you don’t have a reflector, a white sheet or other large white surface held close to the subject will achieve the same result. Light from a flashgun must be balanced carefully with the ambient light if you use one. It’s important to remove shadows under the eyes or around the nose for the high key effect.
  4. Focus on the subject’s eyes. The wide aperture may make focussing critical, so ensure that the eyes are the focus point.
  5. Talk to your subject and relax her. Advise her on how to pose, and experiment with some different angles to ensure you get an effective shot. A relaxed subject will smile naturally. Keep shooting, and experiment with different facial expressions and compositions. Pay attention to details such as stray hairs which may spoil shots.
  6. Open the images in Photoshop or any equivalent photo editing software. Free software like Gimp will produce the same effect if you don’t want to spend money. Use the necessary tool to increase the brightness of the image. Using layers and masks, increase the brightness of the background so that it becomes pure white. You may also want to whiten the subject’s teeth, as any discoloring will stand out in a high key picture.

Written by: Kaizen Marketing