What is a high key image? High key paintings and photos are images that have been created with the intent to reduce mid-tone values and emphasize the brighter (white) parts of the image. Think of an object bathed in bright sunshine so that when you squint all you see are the strongest shadows and bright surfaces. You can see the dramatic difference between a high key and "normal" histogram for the same image in the diagrams below. They "high key" histogram has most of it's values pushed to the right (or bright) side of the chart, while in the normal histogram the values are more evenly distributed and include many more mid-tones.
This "high key" style is often used to convey positive, upbeat or happy moods. It's excellent for subjects that are lighthearted or beautiful. You'll often see this technique used for portraits, flowers, or children. That's not to say that you can't have a high key landscape. Think of the sun burning through fog, everything is bright with little contrast. So the next time you're planning to create an image, think about high key and what it may add to the message.
Thought for the Day
“The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it.” Ansel Adams
One of my favourite ways to photograph a flower is to take two or three exposures exposures - the first in focus, and the 2nd and 3rd progressively less focused and more overexposed (by 1 or 2 stops). You should have your camera mounted on a tripod to minimize movement between shots. If your camera has a multiple exposure setting, then this effect is created in-camera.
Alternatively you can also create the effect through post processing by merging the photos into one image using software such as Photoshop. This Orton effect is named after Michael Orton who invented the technique by overlaying two or more slides to create a unique composite image.
The Orton technique is also great for Portraits. I use it to soften the image and add atmosphere to the portrait. In the photo below I combined two images using Photoshop, using the "overlay" blend mode to create a warmer, richer composite photo.
The photos shown below were used to create the composite, above.
Thought for the Day
“To be creative means to be in love with life. You can be creative only if you love life enough that you want to enhance its beauty, you want to bring a little more music to it, a little more poetry to it, a little more dance to it.” Osho
Eric David is a visual artist / fine art photographer that lives and works in Toronto.