Low key portraits

This is a very informal “low-key” photograph of John…and he just loved having his photograph taken. The secret of good portrait photography is to capture the essence of your model – whether posed or unposed, to bring out their character in the fraction of a second that it takes for the sensor to record the image.

My previous Blog of baby Georgia shows what is known as a  “High Key” effect. The predominant tones are light coloured, tending to white, making the result more dramatic,  but keeping a light, airy, happy, clean interpretation.

Both High Key images and Low Key images make an intensive use of contrast, but in a very different way, in order to interpret the image. Everyone has a camera these days and even camera phones are capable of good quality results, but it’s the ability to interpret the resulting images that makes dedicated professionals that little bit different.

When making decisions about the processing of my portrait of John, I knew that I wanted to bring out his dark characterful face in the best way I could. I examined the raw colour file and decided that colour was definitely out – this had to be low key and it had to be monochrome. The decision about post processing is about finding the best way to interpret the mood that the picture will ultimately convey to the viewer. Low key portraits are full of drama with dark rich tones. Although the photo of John is essentially a happy one, low key can also be used to great effect to introduce a dark and brooding atmosphere to suitable subjects. Low key images, although predominantly dark, do need some areas of bright highlight to contrast strongly with the black tones and it was essential here to ensure that the sparkle in John’s eyes wasn’t lost.