From time to time I see confusion about low key and high key photos.  Some photographers think they can simply underexpose a photo and it will be “low key”; or over-expose a photo and it will be “high key”.  But that’s not right.

Both low key and high key photos must have a full tonal range – black to white.

  • For a low key photo, there will be mostly blacks, but there must be some whites.
  • For a high key photo, there will be mostly whites, but there must be some blacks.

Those small areas are SO important!

  • The tiny bit of white in a low key photo is the difference between a stunning image and a dark boring snapshot.
  • The tiny bit of black in a high key photo is the difference between a stunning image and a washed-out cock-up.

I urge you to visit Google Images and browse “low key photography” and “high key photography”.  You’ll quickly see what I mean.