Low Key Portraits: Take and Make Great Photography with Gavin Hoey

in this video I'll be looking at how you can shoot low-key shots in a small home studio adoramatv presents take and make great photography with Gavin Hoey hello I'm Gavin Hoey and you're watching adoramatv brought to you by Adorama the camera store that has everything for us photographers at this video is all about low-key lighting now low-key shots are those where there is a large proportion of really dark tones in the image but don't be fooled into thinking that means you're underexposing you still want to have some highlights in there as well to show a full range of tones it's just the vast majority are going to be at the dark end of the scale now shooting low-key in a small studio is a great idea because you can do it with a single softbox or a single speed light you can add in more lights if you like but simplicity is the key a great low key shot will have a dark black or gray background and plenty of contrast in the shots too small studios really lend themselves to this style of photography okay let's get a model in set some lights up and take some pictures so once again I'm joined in the studio by fern who's going to be the model for this low-key shoot now I've set my softbox up in a fairly standard position 45 degrees from the model its meted out at f/8 and fern is stood against a black background for low key shots if you want a black or dark background you can pretty much get away with anything material paper or a pop-up background like this and in a small studio black is a really good choice however if you've got a gray background check out my previous video on the Adorama Learning Center where I talk about how to make gray go black okay let's take a picture like this see how it comes out okay superb and that works really well we get some fantastic low-key shots lots of lovely dark black backgrounds but still detail in the highlights however if I want this to be even more low-key there's a simple trick I can do I can add more shadows to the shot and I can do that by either moving the light further back and but that's not really possible so I'd go through the wall the simple answer is to ask fern to step a little bit further forward so if you can take a little step forward so now the light is in a different angle which means I need to rotate it around of course otherwise it would completely miss our model but if I take a shot like this watch what happens to the light when fern is looking at the camera here we go as you can see it doesn't really work because of course the light is coming almost from behind and result is I'm not getting any light on the face the solution is really simple I just ask fern to look towards the light okay then you want to turn and has to go cold profile shots that's really a little towards me that's it as you can see those pictures look fantastic with lovely contrasting light there's still highlight detail on the face but also some shadows and in black and white it still looks amazing now if you're wondering where did the softbox go because it's really close to fern and yet it's not in the pictures well there's a little Photoshop trick that I'm going to show you at the end of this video so once you've worked out a basic lighting idea why not take it a stage further and there's many ways you can do it one of the simplest is just by including a prop into the scene so props come in all sorts of sizes and shapes for this one it's going to be a really simple prop Rob is going to use a bit of material I'm going to talk about props in a later video in this little series but for now just take my advice invest in some material it really is one of the most useful things you can have around your studio so fern I'm going to ask you to use this as a headpiece really so if I give you that Arlis now I need to take a meter reading for this because I've moved my light to the other side so let's get the flash meter pop it underneath ferns chin point it back at the light you're always going to meter towards the light you want to know the strength of f/8 that's perfect let's take a shot like that and see what we get I'm gonna let you do this absolutely that's a really simple prop but boy does it make a massive difference to the look and the feel of the shot and a little bit of red is always a good thing with low-key lighting you don't necessarily need expensive equipment you can use a single bear speed light now normally bear speed lights are going to give harsh shadows birding low-key lighting well harsh shadows can often work really well so that's what I'm going to do I'm going to finish with a simple speed light on its own and just take a shot offer and sat down against my little textured wall here so let's get this over to the side because I want the lighting to come in at an angle to rake the light across the background and to hit fern in the face with some nice contrasting light now that means I'm gonna have to figure out where this is going to go so I'll start there but I may find I have to move my light around as we take some test shots now as always if you move the light you need to meter the light so let's get the flash meter or pop it underneath ferns chin again pointing the little dome back at the flash you want to meet her and I'm getting f9 now I want to keep shooting at f/8 so I'm just going to drop the power ever so slightly and I'm back to f/8 okay so let's turn and take some pictures of fern looking off to the side here we get you so those work well but the direction of light is quite general a moment this flash is set on its 24 millimeter wide angle zoom if I was to zoom the flash in I would get a tighter beam of light with darker top and bottom if I really want to exaggerate that to its maximum I'm going to use a snoot now this is the little magmod rubber snoot I'm actually going to use it closed all the way down which gives about a 40 degree angle of light and that just pops onto the front of the speed light like that okay now I need to put my meter in the light itself and I'm getting F 4.5 so it's taken away quite a lot of light fortunately I can increase the light here re meter and get back to f/8 okay let's take some shots like that everything below your knees honey so there you go by having the speed light and very directional angle to the light we've got some really great and dramatic low-key shots okay let's get one of the pictures into Photoshop and do a little bit of fine-tuning there we're going to do that right now shooting with a small softbox means that if you want soft lighting you've got to get it nice and close that makes it relatively bigger and therefore softer trouble is that means it's more likely to be in your shot add to that the fact that shooting in RAW means that sometimes your blacks aren't quite as black as you thought they would be and I've got two problems to solve here in Adobe Camera Raw fortunately they're nice and simple and use a very similar method so first of all let's deal with the blacks I'm going to come to the little arrow in the top left corner of my histogram and click on it to turn on my clipping warning for shadows now I'm going to come down to the blacks slider move it across to the left and as I go to the left you see I'm getting this sort of warning area saying yep this blue area here is actually pure black I can see that by looking at the RGB here as I move my cursor across zero zero means black anything else means well not black and you can see that's great until I get here where I've got a little bit of color coming in but then I've got this large softbox to remove so I'm going to deal with that bit in one go now I'm going to use one of the local adjustments and you could use either the adjustment brush I'm going to use the graduated filter and what I'm going to do is just drag out a graduated filter over that area now once I've dragged that across I can move my sliders here because I want to reduce the exposure all the way down minus four then I'm going to reduce the highlights all the way down to whatever they need to be and as I do you can see I've lost all the detail here that means I now have pure black over this whole area I've completely removed that from my shot now if the softbox was still visible if there was any other little bits I could also remove whites and blacks that will get me all the way down and of course I can repeat multiple either brushes or graduated filters until that area as gone but when I go back to my usual view there is no softbox anymore it's completely disappeared simply by making it really really dark using the local adjustment tools I always love shooting low key images in my studio it's so simple but so effective now if you want more tips on shooting in a small studio space or you want to see the rest of the amazing videos from the fantastic presenters right here on adoramatv you know what your going to be doing you got to be clicking on that subscribe button I'm Gavin Hoey thanks for watching

49 Replies to “Low Key Portraits: Take and Make Great Photography with Gavin Hoey”

  1. Thanks Gavin, that Graduated Filter in raw is so neat and I just got to know it after 10+ years of PS. Great great tutorial!

  2. I love your videos, Gavin! I wonder why the pictures are not brighter, because of the white walls. Got. white walls, too in my small studio but i don‘t get such pretty dark shots. Please help me. Thanks

  3. I'm a bit of a newbie to this, Why F8 when the clarity of the background is irrelevant. Why not the lowest F number on the model. Sorry if this is a dumb question, but like I said I'm new to it.

  4. shooting in manual mode and spot metering the subject with the camera and confirm exposure using exposure indicator readings for highlights, midtones, and shadows is better way than using external light meter. To makes exposure adjustments you can simply change shutter speed.

  5. Another Amazing tutorial! I probably learn more from Gavin in 5-10 mins since its no fluff compared to some tutorials that take 45-60 mins to view. Thanks!

  6. Beautiful pictures ! Yes – the best photographic tutorial I' ve seen so faar on the net ! Congratulations, for the ideas, for the pictures, for the simplicity in which you are explaining !

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