Low Key photography

Low key photography and lighting.

Low-key photography is a genre of photography consisting of shooting dark-colored scenes by lowering or dimming the “key” or main light illuminating the scene (hence Low-key), and emphasising the natural or artificial lighting in a specific areas in the frame. This photographic style is usually used to create a mysterious atmosphere, that only suggests various shapes, letting the viewer experience the image a glimpse of a subject and leave the rest up to their imagination.

It doesn’t suit every wedding or indeed every part of a wedding day; in my experience it’s most often the evening that suits this style- when I am in control of the lighting with my speed lights- but sometimes there are moments during the day when I’ll spot some natural light that speaks to me.  Here’s some wedding photographs that illustrate low key photography.

Although there are 2 lights from the DJs set-up in this shot, the light that illuminates the couple comes from a speed light (flash) I’ve got on a stand- hidden in the corner of the dance floor.  Whilst I could use Photoshop to remove the the DJ’s lights, I think they add integrity to the image- after all it was a real moment not a staged scene.

The couples first dance was captured by having 4 speed lights on stands in each corner of the dance floor; I just moved around keeping the light exactly where I want it to create that low key mood.

Dropping a coloured gel in front of my light allows a warm tone to modify the image.

Unlike many of these shots, the lighting is in front rather than behind the couple.  It’s a speed light again, but with the couple moving so close to it, I was able to allow the background to drop into darkness, giving the intimate feeling to the first dance photograph.

To create the star burst effect in this shot, I popped a grid on the front of my speed light to create a small pool of light.  Ordinarily I shoot with a very wide aperture (f1.2-f2.8) on my lenses, allowing lots of light into the camera and throwing the background out of focus but to ensure the starburst effect I actually did the opposite; shooting at f8.

Unlike some dance floors, where throwing the background out of focus or into black is there best option for low key images, here the gorgeous chandelier, ceiling, painting and warm tones in the walls are integral to the scene.

Unusually, I was restricted by the vicar at this church to photograph the ceremony from this one location behind the couple.  Whilst there, I captured this image of the organist- I don’t think this is strictly “wedding photography” but I’m always on the look-out for interesting images and of course give them to a couple.

No speed lights required here, nothing can beat the atmosphere created by the setting sun.

Whilst the girls were having their hair done I spotted this harsh light coming through the window- something I avoid for the majority of the wedding day.  Thankfully the hairdresser didn’t mind us moving the chair to a location that placed her in exactly the right place to frame the hair.

I spotted these two in the most perfect light- it has an almost painterly style to it.

Back-lit by the lasers in this image we get the contrast of a private moment with the hard lines of the laser.

This bridesmaid had been frantically dancing and was now having a well deserved break. Shooting only using the lights from the LOVE sign allowed be to drop her into near silhouette.

Using the soft light from an open window and focusing only on the bridesmaids eye lashes gives this image a very soft, tranquil feeling.

This image is a perfect example off where black and white is best, this shot was taken through complex, colourful wedding decorations  using only fairy lights to illuminate the scene.  In colour, it’s far too distracting, the eye doesn’t know where to look and it feels far too dark, but fortunately with modern mirrorless cameras I can set the viewfinder to monochrome and whilst it captures the image in colour it shows me it in clack and white- I done;t miss my film cameras one bit!

Low key doesn’t just suit portraits, sometimes it’s the perfect way to show the details of a wedding day.

The DJs lights at this wedding were all I needed to capture this scene.

The setting sun was used to back light this groomsmen shot, exposing it just enough to keep it away from a pure silhouette.

Copyright © All rights reserved.Using Format

Using Format