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
Eric David is a visual artist / fine art photographer that lives and works in Toronto.