how to take excillent High Key Portraits photos using any dslr camera

What is High Key Photography or High Key Portraits?

High key photography uses unnaturally bright lighting to blow out most or all harsh shadows in an image. In simple terms getting a bright white background without much of a fancy setup.

Here the subject of the photographs are family members. And since its a experiment they could wait until I setup properly and make too many attempts to get what i want to achieve.


Things needed for the setup ?

High Key can be achieved with two methods one using Off Camera TTL Flash and one with White background.

You need a white cloth around 7ft by 5ft/ White or cream wall or a Off Camera TTL Flash and a Wireless Flash Trigger.

Using Off Camera TTL Flash

setup for off camera flash high key portrait

Photo Courtesy

As shown in the above figure the Off Camera TTL Flash should be facing the background right behind the subject.  The Wireless Flash Trigger should be connected to the camera, make sure the mode on the Flash is select M and your flash triggers in sync when you click the shutter button.

One more thing to note is dont put your flash to maximum power as this will over expose the entire image and the highlights will show on the face as well.

I used the second method but i will be writing a blog on this method as well.

Using White Background or Wall

The key here is post processing, we will make sure the subject has a white background using either a white Cloth or a completely white wall and then during post processing we will brighten the wall so it looks bright white.


The Actual Photo shoot


Post processing High Key Portrait using Adobe Lightroom        Lightroom settings for high key

As you can see in the above comparison the left image is the original raw photo. The right one is the processed image. The settings on the far right are from lightroom, assuming that you have the correct exposure on the original shot you can increase the exposure from 0.25-0.50 to brighten the whole image, I added a bith contrast to the image, Increased the highlights to brighten the whites and also increased the shadows for the same. Lastly i had to select the background using the brush tool and separately add exposure of 0.75 to it to make the white cloth the brightest white.

I use Adobe Lightroom for processing my photos.

Another important thing is always shoot raw.

For all photos i used my 50mm 1.8g and was mostly 3-5 ft distance away from the subject. Make sure you always focus on the eyes of the subject to get the face in focus.

Camera settings for the photos

Lens : 50mm 1.8g

Camera: Nikon D610

Single Portraits

Single Portraits : 1/160th – 1/250th

Aperture for single Portraits: F1.8

ISO for single portraits: 160

Couple Portraits  

Shutter Speed for Couple Portrait: 1/100th

Aperture for Couple Portrait: F2.8

ISO for Couple Portrait: 160

As you can notice that i used a higher aperture to get both subjects in focus. This is to ensure that either one of the subjects doesnt go blurred because of wider aperture.

I hope you liked this post on High Key Portraits and will try to do some experiment yourself.

Note: The above technique can also be used with regular Point and Shoot CameraHigh Key point and shoot portraits. All you need to do is overexpose the background.

Thats all for this week , Until next week enjoy and keep experimenting.





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