I get asked a lot about my lighting sets ups, specifically high key lighting set ups. There are a few different ways to achieve a nice high key image done with studio lighting and natural light. I will tell you, I always try to make sure my exposure is near perfect in camera and try not to resort to photoshop to fix my backgrounds. I want to keep this as simple as possible for all of you who would like to try out my methods of high key imagery.
First we’ll start with studio lighting which most find a little overwhelming. I typically shoot with 3-4 Alien bees to create a high key image. I don’t want to get too technical with the ratios as most new photographers start to get a little lost here. A 1:1 or 2:1 ratio are common ratios for this type of lighting, which means your key light is twice as bright as your fill light. One stop is twice as bright. I prefer a one stop difference.
These images were created with studio lighting:
You can also create beautiful imagery using natural light. Settings may vary depending on your studio space. In my studio, I have windows everywhere. I most often use an 8×8 window that faces south west for my high key images. Lighting settings are different depending on the time of day.
This is the window that I shoot in front of. I have a sheer that covers the window to create a white background and to eliminate photoshop work.
Same rules apply, I try to overexpose the background by one to two stops over my subject. For example, If I metered and I get a reading of F8, I will set my camera to 5.6 or even F4 depending on how much light is coming through at that time of day. If you’re finding you’re subject is too dark, bump up your ISO or drop down your fstop, try using a light modifier as well.
These images are all created using window light: I love the look of natural light as always gives a nice soft backlit glow to my subjects.
I hope you found this tutorial useful and will be able to give this a shot!
Marie Murray, Canada
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Marie is a photographer based out of Burlington, Ontario Canada and photographs her clients with both studio and natural light. She has a 1000sqft home studio that she is currently working out of and mainly photographs maternity, newborns and young families. Marie shoots with a Nikon D700 and loves her 50 mm 1.8 lens.