Low/High Key Printing ...

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by jjprat, Mar 10, 2011.

  1. jjprat

    jjprat Member

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    Hi everybody.

    I just want to know what is this (Low or High Key printing). How it works? How to do it? Requirements, ...

    Thanks in advance,

    jxprat
     
  2. stillsilver

    stillsilver Member

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    In a nutshell, high key is a print with a lot of highlights, some of them blown out (no detail). Mostly you will see these in female fashion headshots. Low key would be the opposite. Lots of dark in the print.

    Mike
     
  3. Athiril

    Athiril Subscriber

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  4. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    High key doesn't mean highlights should be blown out., and in low key there can be a lot of details in the blacks.

    Probably two of the true masters playing the extremes of the tonal range are John Blakemore and Thomas Joshua Cooper.

    This video is a good illustration of Thomas Joshua Cooper's work. Here's another John Blakemore link.

    Welcome to APUG BTW jxprat :D Great city Barcelona, was there last month & some great negs to print when I get back to the UK :smile:

    Ian
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 10, 2011
  5. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    While the terms originated with studio lighting they've been used for a long time (over 50 years) to describe other types of images made at the two extremes of the tonal scale for many years. It's work reading John Blakemores, Black & White Photography Workshop.

    Ian
     
  6. jjprat

    jjprat Member

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    Ian (Mike and Athiril),

    thank you very much. With a "normal" negative (well exposed, normal contrast, ...), could it be possible to obtain a hight/low key printing copy? Is there any special developer to obtain a hight/low key printing copy? Any technique should be used (like use some hight/low filter or graded paper)?

    Thanks again,

    jxprat

    BTW, Barcelona it's a very, very nice city ;-)
     
  7. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    It's really a combination of exposure at the taking stage and adjusting the development of the negatives, plus a choice of subject matter.

    Yes it is possible to change the mood of an image quite substantially by shifting the values, printing lighter and dropping the contrast or darker and increasing the contrast.

    These are rather old, and poor quality scans, and the darker version has a bit more detail in the original but they should give you an idea.

    Ian
     

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  8. Nicholas Lindan

    Nicholas Lindan Advertiser Advertiser

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    As Athiril stated, the difference is in the subject matter and how it is lit. Once the picture is taken there is no changing it [well, obviously you can, but it's just going to look like a very, very bad print].

    "High key" and "low key" usually refer to the look of a print, though the terms arose historically from the position of the main light.

    The two styles of pictures do need different printing techniques. Low key pictures have the shadows and midtones dictating the appropriate paper exposure and contrast, high key pictures use the midtones and highlights.
     
  9. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    For low key lighting examples, I'd suggest some (most) of Yousuf Karsh's well known portrait work:

    http://www.karsh.org/#/the_work/portraits/

    By comparison, his Grace Kelly portrait is a lot closer to high key
     
  10. holmburgers

    holmburgers Member

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    I disagree that it only refers to lighting. The same terminology has been used for prints for many years.

    William Mortensen in his book "Pictorial Lighting" says that not every picture is suitable for a high-key print, or a low-key print. The subject matter determines its suitability more than anything.

    However, this suggest that in many ways it is related to the original lighting. You could look at it this way; a high-key print will have on average a majority of tones above middle gray, whereas low-key prints will have on average a majority of tones below middle gray.
     
  11. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    I agree that you could theoretically print a single negative in both a high and a low key manner.

    I have no clue why anyone would want to?

    The practical problem I see is a simple matter of subject placement in relation to the rest of the scene.

    Let's assume a portrait for a second. In either a high or low key scene, the bright side of a face may very well be intended to print in the same zone on paper.

    If the subject placement plan is "fixed" (say the bright side of the face at zone 6.5) then changing the rest of the print to the opposite "key" would be, shall we say, hell.
     
  12. Nicholas Lindan

    Nicholas Lindan Advertiser Advertiser

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    Solarize!

    * * *

    But, I think Mark's definition here is excellent: a high key print is, in general, lighter than the subject; a low key print is darker than the subject. And getting the look is a lot easier by changing the lighting than by any other means.
     
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  13. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Way over the top easier! :laugh:
     
  14. Nicholas Lindan

    Nicholas Lindan Advertiser Advertiser

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    http://www.ephotozine.com/article/black---white-high-key-effects-in-photoshop-4903

    The exercise of taking an insipid snapshot and turning it into something that inspires recolorization by 'technicolor yawn'.

    Photoshop articles remind me of recipes from 1950's magazines: "Ideas for Your Kitchen. Exciting new recipes using mouth-watering food coloring and scrumptious artificial flavors: Our cooks show you how to turn prime rib into hot-dogs the family will love. Brought to you by the Nitrites Council."
     
  15. thefizz

    thefizz Subscriber

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    I'm with Ian, having seen Blakemore's prints, all I can say is "stunning".
     
  16. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Both John Blakemore and Thomas Joshua Cooper have taken using the Zone System to extremes that leave Ansel Adam's work way behind.

    I really would suggest the OP gets Blakemore's B&W Workshop book it's not expensive and easy to understand.

    Ian
     
  17. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    I agree that "zoning" is truly key to shooting "on key".

    What I think most people miss is that it requires an element of real thought and "exposure composition" in that the placement of two or more zones is required. Shooting to the shadows ain't enough.

    The lens and shutter are typically adjusted to place the background, as a high or low key setting, where the normal zone 5 is placed somewhere else.

    The the subject's lighting is then modified (with artificial shade or light) to place it "normally", say zone 6.5 for the bright side of a face.

    Using artificial lighting techniques seems to scare off a majority of casual photographers.

    It is very possible to use natural or semi-natural situations to get the effect, but the theory is the same, a purposeful exposure difference between subject and scene is chosen and maintained.

    Use a campfire as the light for the subject and a sunset to set the low key background. Place your subject in the shade of a tree and let the full sun background go high key.

    Trying to replicate this effect after the film is exposed is tough.
     
  18. Athiril

    Athiril Subscriber

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    Yes, but it doesn't make it not an incorrect usage of the terms.
     
  19. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    How can it be an incorrect use of the word ?

    High & low key are dependant on the placement of the tonal scale through exposure as well as the lighting.

    As the term originally comes from music it's not specific to light but how you use the available range of tones.

    Ian
     
  20. jjprat

    jjprat Member

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    Ok, thank you very much to everybody.

    I thought it was just a print decission: you've got a negative and then you decide how to print it, as you decide the contrast, the shadows, the lights, ...

    So, if I've got a negative (say normal negative, normal contrast, correct expossure, ...) and I want to "simulate" high/low key situation, what should I do? How can I print it to get it (simulate) as a hight key print?

    Thanks again,

    jxprat
     
  21. Nicholas Lindan

    Nicholas Lindan Advertiser Advertiser

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    Use Photoshop.
     
  22. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Burn and dodge, a lot. :sad: :sad: :sad:

    If you can reshoot you may (will probably) be better off.
     
  23. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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