Low key photographs are those that are overall dark images, often with just a small patch of light picking out the subject. Basically, it’s the opposite of a high key image.

While a brightly-lit high key image appears bright and airy, a low key image appears dark and moody. The lack of light can be used to give a sense of foreboding or fear, or just to create a dramatic image. In this article, we’ll look at some tips to help you create low key images.

low key photography Photo by: Divyesh Vanzara


Black Background

Though you can use any other backdrop for taking the shots, a black backdrop will go a long way in helping you achieve a classy solid black appearance associated with low key shots.

To ensure that you get the most amazing dark images, avoid hitting the backdrop with light in such a way that unwanted textures and wrinkles are appears on the photos.

Photo by: Divyesh Vanzara


Playing with Shadows

Taking low key images can be a fun given that, while in normal photography you try as much as you can to avoid harsh shadows, here you ought to consider them in order to come up with a perfect dark image.

low key photography Photo by: Divyesh Vanzara


Position of the Subject

The most preferred setup is placing the subject a few centimeters away from the backdrop.

low key photography Photo by: Divyesh Vanzara



Once the subject is in the right place, it’s now time to place the lighting. How exactly do you do this? You might be wondering… Well, for fascinating results, place the light source (i.e. flash light/soft box) on one side of the object so that it can light the parts of the object that you would like to be highlighted in the image. Placing the light in such a manner also ensures that dark shadows surround the light area in your short- creating a nice dramatic atmosphere.
Low key photography

Photo by: Divyesh Vanzara

If you would like to reduce the contrast between the highlighted subject and the rest of your shot, adding a few light sources on the background can do the trick. Simply use a reflector to direct some of the light on the backdrop downwards.

Camera Settings

The choice of camera used for taking low lighting images matters. A digital single lens reflex (DSLR) is always recommended as it allows you to adjust the major characteristics of the camera.

low key photography Photo by: Divyesh Vanzara


The ISO should always be kept between 100 and 200- this keeps the image dark and free of noise. Keep the aperture between f/4 and f/6- this enables you to achieve the desired effects for your lighting setup. Shutter speed should be kept slow enough to allow enough light to enter the camera. But again, it should not be kept slow such that it captures movement.

low key photography Photo by: Divyesh Vanzara

That’s all you need to know about low key photography. You discover and learn new things as you go and practice. What are you waiting for?

To learn more about photographing in low key, join our Low Key Photography Workshop by Divyesh Vanzara



  • Like!! I blog quite often and I genuinely thank you for your information. The article has truly peaked my interest.

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