Last week we showcased high-key photography, therefore it makes sense to showcase low-key photography this week, an example of which you can see above.
For low-key imagery, we’re basically reversing the process that we had the last week. Instead of boosting the highlights to make a light, ethereal looking photograph — we emphasize the shadow tones to make a dark, moody, and very dramatic looking photograph. More specific descriptions of low-key photography can be found here, and thumbnails of other low-key images can be found here. The biggest takeaway is that the light source should be very directional and from a single source; however, low-key images can be captured in the great outdoors as well, provided that the lighting conditions are suitable.
Here’s how I created this image. Select your target file and open it within Adobe Lightroom. In this case, it’s a shot I took mid-morning this past Sunday using a point-and-shoot film camera:
As you can see, it’s a far cry from looking like a low-key image — but that’s okay, because the lighting is perfect for this challenge. The image has tremendous depth to it due to the fog, and the lighting is very flat — which will help us paint the canvas as we want it to look.
First we process the image to normal parameters:
Then — in the Basic panel — go to the top of the Treatment section and convert the image to Black & White:
And now we play with the settings of the Tone Curve. The end results will vary from image to image (I played with the Tone Curve on this shot for about an hour), but in this case my final Tone Curve settings were as follows:
- Highlights: -7
- Lights: -80
- Darks: -84
- Shadows: -100
Since source file is in full color, I can emphasize the monochrome tones in certain areas by simply adjusting the various colors under the Black & White Mix, like so:
This is looking pretty decent, so I’ll do the retouching now. The white circles represent all the areas that I touched up with the Spot Removal (on some images this can add another hour or two of work to the image, even if it’s a digital shot):
Now it just needs a little Clarity from the Presence section of the Basic panel, and — voilà! — this image is completed.
As you can see, creating a low-key image is even easier than creating one in high-key — and far more versatile and less trendy looking. So here’s the challenge: find or create a low-key image of your own, and go through the same step-by-step process I outlined here to produce your own dramatic photograph.
Once you’ve finished, be sure to include “#photo101rehab”, “#photorehab”, and “#imagecraftbootcamp” with your normal tags — and if you wish to submit it to the Flickr group (we’ve already got seven people who have joined us), you’ll need to post it there as well (https://www.flickr.com/groups/imagecraft_bootcamp/).
Here are the pioneers of the Image Bootcamp:
Julie Powel at Photographer and Graphic Artist
Lisa at Gray Days and Coffee
Andy at Andy Townend
Terri Duncan at Beespeak
Carlo Matriano at the Digital Painter
Good luck, and see you next Wednesday!