High Key Lighting How To

High Key Lighting How To


This month I look at beauty lighting and white backgrounds, two of my favorite studio lighting techniques. The concepts used to create this setup are a great foundation for just about every other studio lighting scenario you’ll run into. I’ll walk you step by step through the creation of a classic beauty portrait with soft accent lighting, and what seems to be viewed as the Holy Grail of studio lighting: the pure white background.

The key to this lighting pattern is balance—the balance between the background and foreground and the balance between each zone of light. “Zone of light” is simply any light or group of lights that are separately controlled, metered and positioned. Working this way allows you to build your lighting patterns one zone at a time and judge the contribution of each zone (by shooting with each zone one at a time and then in combination), and also allows individual control over each zone’s position, distance and modification. Care must be taken to avoid unwanted light contamination between zones. For example, if we place the foreground subject too close to the background, lit by a separate lighting zone, light from the background zone will spill onto the foreground zone, contaminating it with unwanted additional light. So distances are key!

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