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Tutorial Tuesday: Low Key Photography - Ramblings and Photos

April 17, 2012
Tutorial Tuesday: Low Key Photography
Welcome to Tutorial Tuesday! Sarah of Naptime Momtog and I will be bringing you a new challenge every week, to stretch your shooting and editing skills. This week, Sarah is sharing a tutorial on how to do Low Key Photography.

In traditional photography there are three types of lighting used: key light, fill light and back lighting for even illumination. Low-key lighting requires only one, key light. Be sure to click over to Sarah’s blog (click HERE) to see a pull back of her set up as well as read some tips on setting up your own low key photographs.

As for me, I’ll be honest…I rarely attempt low key photography. I think it intimidates me. That, and I usually only have myself to work with…so I’m a bit limited with regard to willing photography subjects (at least until our little girl arrives and she doesn’t have a choice). However, I have had some success with low key self-portraits. Here’s a few of my favorites: 
Computer Lies - Color RS
ISO 250, f/1.8,1/20 sec.
In this particular shot, I used the light from my computer screen to illuminate my face. I also processed this photo in black and white, but thought I might show what it looks like in color. Click HERE to see the black and white image.
ISO 2500, f/4.5, 1/30 sec.
In this particular shot, I was going for more of a character portrait…the character being a girl who felt isolated. In order to achieve the look, I needed to shoot in mostly darkness…of course, I also needed a hint of light to illuminate my body. I think I used what I call a “funeral parlor” lamp (the ones where the light shoots upwards instead of downward) tilted towards me. This created an interesting shadow that I think really plays into the mood of the image. From there, I processed the photo in black and white and applied texture. But enough about me, it’s your turn to show us a little low key photography.

Ready to join in the fun? Here’s how to do it:

1. Read through today’s tutorial on Sarah’s blog.
2. Choose your favorite shot (or more!) to share with us.
3. Don’t forget to grab the button for your post!
4. Link up between now and next Monday.

Tutorial Tuesday

PS: If you have any photography or editing suggestions, please don’t hesitate to let Sarah or me know! We would love to feature your tutorial.


    I love your second shot a lot! Once, a long long time ago I did a self-portrait that would definitely qualify as low-key. I had no idea back then that that was what I was doing, but to this day it’s still one of my most favorite photos.

    Oooo.. don’t think I’ve seen that second shot before! It’s awesome! :D

    I like the first photo. Very creative with the use of lights.

    Life Less Ordinary

    I love your shots…haven’t had time to check out the tutorial, but I will try to get to it. SO much to do…so little time!

    That’s pretty cool! I might have to experiment with that!

    Gorgeous! The second one is so dramatic – I absolutely love it. I will have to try something like this with my daughter.

    I just love both of these shots!

    I love your two self portraits. I would like to try one of me and the computer screen. Maybe tonight. :)

    wow! these are so cool! i love the drama created in the second one and the first one is just amazing! love these! can’t wait to try this myself!! :)

    Well done. I love the character shot.

    So cool. I really love that first shot!

    I am in love with the second photo, so beautiful.

    Both shots are great BUT that second shot is absolutely stunning!!!!

    Great shots, I like the idea of the computer screen as a light source. Cheers

    I love the second one. It has style and emotion. Love it! This is a cool technique. I need to try this. I think I tried doing it before with the iPad and our boys, but it didn’t work like I envisioned. Must try again.

    I have always loved that first one- I rarely attempt low key. The idea of always finding the light & avoiding the darkness has been drilled into my head so much that I never really think about low key until I see someone else do it & then I think for a moment that I will give it a try & then I fail miserably at it :)

    Yeah the light from the computer worked. Now must try my lightbox with black backdrops. Cheers

    I just love that second shot, Ashley!

    Haven’t been here in a long time, but I’ve been following along on FB. Hope you’re doing well. :)

    What great examples! These are awesome, Ashley!

    This is great! I really must try this out, but I do feel intimidated.

    Both shots are great! I definitely want to try more low key photography – particularly portraits. Here’s one I tried recently as part of my 366 for 2012 project…


    You’re right though – it is rather intimidating!

    Both shots are great! I definitely want to try more low key photography – particularly portraits. Here’s one I tried recently as part of my 366 for 2012 project…


    You’re right though – it is rather intimidating!

    Wow, I love both of these Ashley. The drama in each is fantastic. I’ll have to try this soon. Thanks for the inspiration!

    How ironic, I was just thinking of your “isolation” self portrait and what a good job you did with creating that mood!

    Ashley, I LOVE both of your self portraits. This is so exciting to try, but like you…I don’t have anyone to practice on unless my daughter is home from college. You gals always teach me something FUN! Thanks!

    Wow! I love that first shot! It’s fantastic; it’s both moody and lovely at the same time. I’m really enjoying these tutorials!

    I love this and I love the photos! Thanks for doing this!

    YOU intimidated when it comes to anything photography… woman please?!!

    Ashley, I LOVE the 1st shot… but I ADORE the character portrait. Just amazing. Has such an artsy romantic feel!

    YAY… so happy to join you lovely gals. I was SUPER intimated, but really do like my finished product!

    Wow. Both shots are awesome. This is something id like to attempt one day! I never have and may not succeed but its worth a shot right?!

    I LOVE the second one, the “movement”, emotion and shadow is wonderful!