A high-key image

I am sure that most of you would know what high-key photography is all about. Try and recall any good food or product photograph that you have seen and chances are that you have come across a high-key image.

In this technique, one tries to use light to eliminate all harsh shadows from the subject and the frame itself, thereby creating an artificially bright environment. It is generally used to convey an upbeat imagery but can be manipulated to communicate a number of other different concepts. A high-key image is usually one that is unusually bright (think of some of Apple’s product photography with a lot of white space and you would get an idea of what I am talking about) – the nature of such images highlights the subject and can result in attention-grabbing contrast.

Given how intensive it is on light as a key resource, it is generally easier to create high-key images in a studio with a lot of external lights – to light up the background, to light up the subject, fill-lights for the subject, etc.  In the field, while shooting wildlife, we usually don’t have access to external light sources – using the available light creatively plus combining that with over-exposure is one way that I can think of if one has to achieve a similar effect.  Shooting against a white & reflecting background like snow is another.

This image of the Chukkar Partridge is one such experiment that I tried recently. It was quite early in the morning, just a few minutes after sunrise, and this was my first click of the day. Having a decent collection of portraits of this bird over the years, I didn’t see any point in shooting a grainy one at 3200 ISO. Given how uniform the light was, how good the background bokeh was and how out-of-focus the foreground was, I felt that this was a great opportunity to attempt a high-key effect. I quite liked the result, hope that you do as well.

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