High-key photography – this week’s challenge was to shoot what is known as a high key portrait. High-key means the subject is lit so that there is very little shadow, but also back-lit to produce a rare quality. This link will explain it better than I can: Profoto Blog – How to Do High-key Portrait

Ideally, the photographer has reflectors and lights to set up around the subject minimizing the shadows. I don’t. I use natural light, ambient light and in this case, my flash. Also the settings on the camera can make a difference. I set my ISO to 250, lengthened my exposure by a couple of notches, kept my F-stop low and my shutterspeed was slow-ish for this shot. But it was bright sunlight out as well and I was outdoors. The patio cobbles are quite reflective, so they served for that, the sun provided the general wash and I used my flash to fill in more of the shadows.

I’m posting two versions of this week’s. The first because I love it. The effect is quite startling. It was taken with all the same settings except I was at F5 and 1/60 shutterspeed.

The pheasant walks in and her attention is caught.
The pheasant walks in and her attention is caught.

Strictly speaking, however, this next version is the closest thing to high-key that I can currently produce – whether by expertise or by method.  This one was at F6.4 and my shutterspeed was 1/180. What I hadn’t foreseen was how reflective the patio cobbles, which are dark, really are. It also rather explains how warm it gets there on a sunny winter’s day.

The pheasant does provide a great focus for her.
The pheasant does provide a great focus for her … thankfully.

This has been a neat challenge. I may not be able to produce pure high-key portraits without all the reflectors and lights, but I have learned that there are really interesting effects that can be produced in the effort. I’ve also learned that I can produce something close to high-key just using what I have around me.

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