What Is High Key Photography?

High key photography involves photography where there is a large amount of light tones and fewer mid-tones or shadows. The best way to obtain high key is by using in-camera techniques rather than trying to achieve your objectives through post processing methods. Therefore, you have to learn how to create an image that has a high key tone.

Key Tones

Key tones are normally mid-tone. By placing them high on the exposure scale, it becomes easy to make them lighter or brighter. Thus, an image with bright mid-tones will have high tones which will be lighter or much too white.

White Tones

When the white becomes too white, it must be toned or clipped down to keep it at an acceptable level of whiteness. There will also be areas that are very dark and when these areas become too bright, the unwanted brightness has to be controlled. Essentially, high key photography is all about controlling the dark tones which are not really wanted in the first place.


Many believe that images in high key are simply those images that have been over-exposed. This is true but it does not in any way help to create a high key image. In order to make them high key, it becomes necessary to raise the shadow tones to mid-tones and in doing it is possible to create fresh key tones.

The bottom line is that in order to succeed with high key photography, you need to work with flat and also very generous lighting, while at the same time not using dark clothes, trimmings or even props.