how to get a high-key photo without studio lighting

by Crystal Samson

Have you ever wanted to make a high-key headshot, but don’t have studio lighting, or enough equipment to pull it off?

If you have a window, or even just a bright sky, you can!  No fancy lights to learn…just a simple reflector (if you want, you can even do it without a reflector) and a bright light source behind your subject is all you need.

Place your subject in front of a bright window, the less distractions the better.  Blinds, framing pieces, even trees and houses in the background can sometimes interfere. The main purpose is to get as much directly behind your subject blown out as possible. I used a reflector camera left to add some light into her face.

Here is a pullback of the subject in front of my sliding glass doors.

how to get a high key photo without studio lighting photo

Upload your image, open in your chosen editor (I use ACR, Lr is fine also).  Make your global adjustments (white balance, exposure, contrast, etc)

You can see here that most of the window area is blown, that’s exactly what we want.

how to get a high key photo without studio lighting photo

Bring your image into Photoshop

how to get a high key photo without studio lighting photo

Do your normal edits.  I brightened her eyes, added a bit of contrast, & fixed some blemishes.

how to get a high key photo without studio lighting photo

Add a solid color layer, white

how to get a high key photo without studio lighting photo

FFFFFF is white

how to get a high key photo without studio lighting photo

Lower the opacity a bit on your color fill layer, so you can see your subject enough to be able to select around them.

how to get a high key photo without studio lighting photo

Use the lasso tool to roughly select around your subject.

how to get a high key photo without studio lighting photo

ctrl + x to cut the color fill from your subject

how to get a high key photo without studio lighting photo

You can see here that there is part of the sliding door frame.  You’ll use your brush tool to clean it up.

You can add a levels adjustment layer, slide the black slider all the way to the right side, and see where it needs to be fixed.  Use the brush to brush on the color fill layer to that area.

how to get a high key photo without studio lighting photo

Example of the levels layer with the black slid all the way to the right, after the area has been cleaned up.

how to get a high key photo without studio lighting photo

Final image

how to get a high key photo without studio lighting photo

If you need a bigger canvas, or more room on either side of her, it’s very simple to do by going to Image>Canvas Size and adjust the width and/or height to whichever side you like by using the anchor direction, and canvas extension color of white.

how to get a high key photo without studio lighting photo

After extending the canvas to the left for more negative space

how to get a high key photo without studio lighting photo

Final image

how to get a high key photo without studio lighting photo

how to get a high key photo without studio lighting photoCrystal Samson, Idaho
CMpro
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Crystal is a photographer specializing in Boudoir, Engagement, Weddings and Seniors in the Boise, Idaho area.

 

 

Read all photography tutorials from Crystal Samson.

westcott giveaway!!

how to get a high key photo without studio lighting photo

Thank you to Westcott for sponsoring today’s article!  They are giving away a 40″ 5-in-1 Sunlight Reflector, value $59.90, to one random winner.  Enter below by noon on Friday June 13th!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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82 Responses to “how to get a high-key photo without studio lighting”

  1. magan
    Jun 10 2014 at 10:30 pm #

    Can’t wait to try this.

  2. Jun 10 2014 at 10:32 pm #

    I actually like to manipulate off camera flash lighting, natural light is awesome but so limiting.

  3. Jun 10 2014 at 10:39 pm #

    Love natural lighting – but thankful for a speedlight on “those” kind of moments!

  4. Valerie
    Jun 10 2014 at 10:43 pm #

    Natural, but someday I’d like to experiment with lights.

  5. M
    Jun 10 2014 at 10:43 pm #

    Would love to try out this reflector! What a great giveaway!

  6. Andrea
    Jun 10 2014 at 10:45 pm #

    Natural. Beauty + occasional challenge.

  7. Elaina
    Jun 10 2014 at 10:50 pm #

    Would so love this!

  8. Elaina
    Jun 10 2014 at 10:52 pm #

    Oh and I love using natural light but always looking for natural reflectors in my surroundings!

  9. Lyndsey
    Jun 10 2014 at 10:59 pm #

    Wow I never knew, I would love to try this.

  10. Jennifer Brandon
    Jun 10 2014 at 10:59 pm #

    Natural light all the way!

  11. Sarah Long
    Jun 10 2014 at 11:12 pm #

    Thanks for the step by step!

  12. Angie P.
    Jun 10 2014 at 11:16 pm #

    Natural Lighting :)

  13. Kyra
    Jun 10 2014 at 11:24 pm #

    Natural light is always my favorite but I hope to learn studio lighting soon!

  14. ALICE KLUNCK
    Jun 10 2014 at 11:35 pm #

    I love natural lighting.

  15. Donna Skoog
    Jun 10 2014 at 11:40 pm #

    I love natural lighting!

  16. Rachel F.
    Jun 10 2014 at 11:48 pm #

    Natural light is my favorite.

  17. Ellen
    Jun 11 2014 at 7:21 am #

    Natural light!

  18. janelle
    Jun 11 2014 at 7:25 am #

    Great tips!

  19. Allison
    Jun 11 2014 at 7:28 am #

    This is great! Thanks for sharing!

  20. diana
    Jun 11 2014 at 8:51 am #

    Natural lighting all the way !!

  21. Tracy Brewer
    Jun 11 2014 at 9:59 am #

    I love natural light!

  22. Jun 11 2014 at 10:02 am #

    Natural light but would love to try out studio!! Thank you!!

  23. Heather
    Jun 11 2014 at 11:07 am #

    No doubt about it, natural light!

  24. Jun 11 2014 at 11:31 am #

    So good, thanks for sharing. I’m a fan of natural light.

  25. Jennifer
    Jun 11 2014 at 3:09 pm #

    Great article. Thanks for the chance to win a reflector.

  26. Jennifer
    Jun 11 2014 at 3:10 pm #

    Oh and natural light. Flash scares me. :)

  27. Jun 12 2014 at 2:26 am #

    I love this and can’t wait to try it!

  28. Jun 12 2014 at 2:27 am #

    Natural light (forgot to add to my earlier comment.

  29. Kim
    Jun 12 2014 at 3:16 pm #

    Natural all the way!

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