Low/High Key Printing ...
I just want to know what is this (Low or High Key printing). How it works? How to do it? Requirements, ...
Thanks in advance,
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.
High key refers to a high key light, low key refers to a low key light. They don't refer to prints, that is a bit of misinformation there. Key refers to the key light.
Last edited by Ian Grant; 03-10-2011 at 04:29 AM. Click to view previous post history.
Reason: add welcome
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.
Originally Posted by Athiril
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Ian (Mike and Athiril),
Originally Posted by Ian Grant
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)?
BTW, Barcelona it's a very, very nice city ;-)
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.
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.
For low key lighting examples, I'd suggest some (most) of Yousuf Karsh's well known portrait work:
By comparison, his Grace Kelly portrait is a lot closer to high key
“Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”
Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2
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.
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