Highlight Delicacy with High Key

Black and white photos are always in fashion. Even among the pros. In a recent article we looked at several methods for converting pictures to black and white. This time we’ll take a look at how to produce “High Key” black-and-white, which is used to emphasize delicacy and perfection.

High Key photographs are very bright photos, dominated by a variety of bright tones. They have only a mild contrast between lights and shadows. The result is a very light photo with no significantly dark areas.

When Should You Use High Key?

This type of edit feels very delicate, and so it’s not a good fit for every shot. In documentary work for example, this look is definitely less than ideal. It’s also not a fit for every portrait photograph.

A run-of-the-mill photo where High Key doesn’t look good at all.

A run-of-the-mill photo where High Key doesn’t look good at all.

This photo after a High Key edit. Here a classical black-and-white conversion would look better.

This photo after a High Key edit. Here a classical black-and-white conversion would look better.

A classical black-and-white conversion looks much better.

A classical black-and-white conversion looks much better.

A High Key edit is very delicate, so it best fits photos whose contents are delicate—for example female studio nudes, artistic pregnancy photos, and baby photos. In short, use it where you want to emphasize delicacy.

For this photo, meanwhile, High Key is a great fit.

For this photo, meanwhile, High Key is a great fit.

A photo with a High Key edit.

A photo with a High Key edit.

Watch out for Distractions

Ideally you should know that you’ll be doing High Key on a shot before you even press the trigger. Carefully prepare a distraction-free scene in advance—above all that means a single-color background, usually white.

Use the Red Channel method for the B&W conversion.

Use the Red Channel method for the B&W conversion.

While taking the pictures that you’ll be editing with High Key, do everything you can to get the subject looking perfect. Everything that’s even slightly distracting will stand out in High Key. So avoid things like tousled hair, bad makeup, jewelry, and wrinkled clothes.

Grayscale and the Red Channel

After any basic touchups, use Grayscale in Zoner Photo Studio’s Editor to make the picture black and white. Use the Effects menu’s Grayscale command for this (or press Ctrl+G). Under Method on the right, pick Red Channel. By working through the red channel like this, you can soften red tones in the picture, making them look almost white, with very soft shadows. Typical European and Asian skin types have mainly red tones. That’s why the red channel is so central to High Key.

The High Key edit was much more in fashion in the past than it is today. But that’s no reason not to go and give it a try.

Last updated 22. June 2015

0 0
Thank you! Please share this article too, so that it can also help other people.

Author: Majo Elias

I’ve been taking pictures since 2004. When I was starting out, I photographed almost everything. Later my style solidified and I began photographing people almost exclusively. At the moment my main genres are fashion and advertising.

Read All Articles.

Comments