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One Light High Key
Old 02-28-2005, 02:55 PM   #1 (permalink)
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I seem to remember someone commenting they could get a high key effect with just one light. I believe the discussion was about getting the background fully white.

I'd like to know how to do this because I have one light, and I'd like to use a white background. But when I do it isn't really white and show wrinkles, creases etc. I also have a reflector that I use for fill.
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Re: One Light High Key
Old 02-28-2005, 09:04 PM   #2 (permalink)
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My guess at this yould be have the model sitting pretty close to the background, but with a light behind her. Put two reflectors side by side in front of your model as close as possible and shoot throught a space between them. Dump the light on the backgound. I think that might work for you. Let me know if you try it.
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Re: One Light High Key
Old 02-28-2005, 09:14 PM   #3 (permalink)
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High key does not require the background to go completely white, although it might. I have often set up a white background close to a large window or soft box and then used reflectors to reflect some light on the model for fill and some light on the background to get rid of subject's shadow or mute it. As long as the majority of the tones in the image are in the highlight range one could call it high key. For example, this is a one light high key shot:



Here is the histogram which shows the distribution of tones and the bulk are on the right (hence hi key).



This is not super high key, however. This is more of what I would call a mid high key. The more the histogram that ends up on the right and the extreme right the "higher" the key.

Cheers,
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Re: One Light High Key
Old 02-28-2005, 10:29 PM   #4 (permalink)
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So I tried it. Here's a picture of the set up. Light right behind her (in this picture I had turned it around to face her.) Foamboard on one side, reflector on the other.



It was hard to get the exposure right and the background/foreground ratio was pretty far apart. This is the best picture I got. Not much contrast in the light between the two reflectors, but they were the same distance from the subject. Also my lens ended at 4.5 and the meter wanted 2.0. I'm using a sheet for a backdrop and as you can see above, there is a mirror behind it. With only one sheet there is more light coming off the back, light goes right through the sheet and off the mirror. I ended up putting up two sheets.



This was a quick experiment. I'll probably try some another day.
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Re: One Light High Key
Old 03-01-2005, 12:39 AM   #5 (permalink)
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If you dress the subject in white, then that will make it a high key photo. In this case I don't think the shot is truly high key. You might consider one of those shoot through reflectors that Calumet sells (3d Reflector). That would reflect more of the light into the front of the model.
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Re: One Light High Key
Old 03-01-2005, 11:38 AM   #6 (permalink)
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I think you're looking for hot white backgrounds rather than high key. That's really hard to do with just one light. I have two background lights that I use when I shoot on white. Also, you'll want to use seamless paper rather than a muslin or a sheet. Only the paper will really blow out.

Paul



Here's one shot on white muslin:

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Re: One Light High Key
Old 03-01-2005, 10:56 PM   #7 (permalink)
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High key with one light is not very hard. Dean Collins shows a whole setup doing high key with one light. It's all a part of his key shifting/chromozone lecture. Anyway, his videos are available at a lot of photo equipment rental places for rent, or for purchase at a lot of online places. They are worth watching.

Anyway, assuming you are shooting against a white seamless background (although you can even be shooting against gray paper and make it go white), you can set up your one light in the front of the subject, and place a diffusion fabric between the light and the subject (a light panel for diffusion, or a scrim jim, or whatever you have). Then you want to be sure the light passes past the panel to the background. The basic premis is that you can make the background go lighter by adding light to it (which would take more lights) or by making the subject darker (here with the use of the diffusion panel) and then because you are readjusting your exposure for the new light reading on the subject, the background will shift to a lighter color. And, if you want a nice hairlight, you can sit a small mirror on a stand and use that light that passes the panel to kick a nice light back into her hair. So, you can have a high key, white background, a nice softly lit subject, and a nice hairlight, all with one light.

I may not have explained it very well, but I can tell you which video to get if you want to see it, or I can draw up a diagram if you have an interest.
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Re: One Light High Key
Old 03-02-2005, 12:53 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Cool. I'll try this tonight.

One question, how do you keep from having a shadow line on the background where the light missing the defuser meets light going through it?
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Re: One Light High Key
Old 03-02-2005, 10:33 PM   #9 (permalink)
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So I tried it.



I think the ratio back to front is a little hot, but it proved the concept can be done. For what it is worth here is my meter readings.

32 from the right - main light through diffuser.
16 from the left off foamboard reflector
64 on the sheet about 5 feet behind model
22 at back of head off sheet.

It was shot at f8 as metered domed under chin.

Probably could have improved some of the ratios by moving her further from the background.

I'm still learning how to do ratios and where to meter etc.
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Re: One Light High Key
Old 03-03-2005, 01:09 AM   #10 (permalink)
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OK. Here is my really poor diagram. Sorry, but I am good at retouching in photoshop, not drawing in it. I'd buy the Dean Collins video. But... I will try to explain the drawing and maybe it will make sense. So, in his high key with one light setup, he has a white seamless paper backdrop. Try setting the light panel with diffusion fabric (or a scrim jim with diffusion fabric, etc.) at a 45 degree angle to the model off to camera left. This will be your main light for the model, so treat the panel as such. Angle the panel at a 45 degree angle as well, then set the strobe about 4 feet behind the panel so it lights it up, but so that it also passes past the panel to light the background. So the strobe head will be kind of aimed at the corner of the panel towards the background. Then, you can place another panel with white reflective fabric or a reflector on the other side of her for fill as you need it. I hope the diagram helps.

In your photo, I see a couple things that may help. First, if you use white seamless paper instead of a sheet, it will help. Or, staple the sheet very tight to a piece of plywood or something and get all the wrinkles out. Also, it actually looks like you are losing contrast because of some blowback from the background being too bright and pushing light back past her towards your lens. Finally, the light on the model looks like it is not very crisp. She looks a little underexposed on my screen, with no catchlights really in her eyes. Keep that panel at 25-50 degrees so you get a nice catchlight. Also, if you use a long lense, it narrows the amount of background you see, so you don't have to worry quite as much about the background being lit totally evenly over a large area. Give it a shot and see how it turns out. Best of luck.

Steve

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