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Thread: High Key outdoor portrait

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    High Key outdoor portrait

    G'day all,

    I have been looking for tutorials on how to shoot high key outdoor portraits. My intention was to use the sun behind the subject and fill flash/reflector from the front, and get a result without to much PP (which I really suck at). My idea of high key is not just an over exposed shot with blown highlights - which might be hard to avoid.

    Could someone make some recommendations as to which camera settings to use, or perhaps a link to some tutorials dealing with outdoor high key photography. All I can seem to find is studio related articles, which is probably the easier option .

    Thanks in advance....

    Regards, Dutch

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    Since you are going to use flash, I would say go with "M" mode.

    Put the object in front of the sun. Meter the sky/background and adjust your ISO/shutter speed/apperture until you get the background as per your liking (your subject will pretty much be dark by then). Start to introduce the flash and increase the power of your flash until the subject is exposed per your liking. Remember that if you do off camera flash, your maximum sync speed will be between 1/200 (canon) to 1/250 (nikon).

    I hope this help

    PS: if you want to blow out the background, any reason why you are not doing it indoor? 2 flash (one for the subject and the other to blow out the background (could be simple white wall)) could do the trick
    Beaten up OMD EM-5 with lots of gaffer tapes + some tiny lenses

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    Thanks Pandawan,

    I prefer the outdoors. I know controlling the light indoors is much easier, but I prefer the outdoors for a more pleasant background texture. I haven't played to much with the flash and different output, sounds like it's time to learn.

    Regards, Dutch

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    Not sure how to explain it in text so I am just gonna hammer away and hope I make myself clear

    A couple of options and pretty much in the style suggested by Pandawan.

    1. use manual mode on both camera and flash. Camera meters for the background (take a shot with no flash and you have a prefect sky but silhoutte subject) Keep those camera settings, turn flash on and start at 1/4 power on manual setting...adjust up or down from there. NOTE: You may (probably) require a shutter speed higher than your flash sync speed (typically 1/200). If that is the case set your flash to high sync speed.
    2. The second option seems easier but it depends on location. With this option it is not really high key but I suppose it depends on how far you take it. This technique is a little different and IMO more difficult than it sounds...I learned it from a course online and they make it seem so easy ....basic principle is the same, use the sun as the backlight but put your subject against a dark background, be it a building or woodland etc.....now fill gently with manual fill light and see how you go. Good luck

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    Arch-Σigmoid Ausphotography Regular ameerat42's Avatar
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    Dutch. OK, so you don't think it's just an overexposed shot with blown highlights. I see what you mean.

    Here's what I'd try: start metering the "shadows" of your subject and expose for them to appear "properly exposed".
    I would expect that, depending on the tonal range you are photographing - which for "high-key" shots would not have deep shadows anyway, the dynamic range of your camera should be up to the job.
    In later processing of your raw image, you should be able to pull any stray highlights back into line.

    If your subject does have deep shadow as well, you can process them to go almost black and still retain the remainder in "high-key".
    Am.
    CC, Image editing OK.

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    Thanks for the great advice, I get the idea (I think) - time to try it out. Like everything, this is best learned with camera in hand and a few pointers. I appreciate the comments, they sure helped me with a starting point.

    Regards, Dutch

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    High key needs good control of contrast. See if you find some books on portraiture and film which deal with this subject.
    Alive and still clicking - apologies to PSQ.
    Living and working in the Roaring Forties
    Assorted cameras of all sizes and shapes including Pentax K (the original), MX, Z1,K20D; 50mm 1.2, 35mm 2.0, 85mm 1.8

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    G'day Stan,

    Do you have any titles in mind? I have searched a fair bit, but there seems to be a lack of these books or tutorials that deal with outdoor high key photography. I mainly find the studio photography books that cover the topic a little.

    Regards, Dutch

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    Quote Originally Posted by mangrovedutch View Post
    G'day Stan,

    Do you have any titles in mind? I have searched a fair bit, but there seems to be a lack of these books or tutorials that deal with outdoor high key photography. I mainly find the studio photography books that cover the topic a little.

    Regards, Dutch
    Rather than search for outdoor 'high key' try looking for 'outdoor portrait backlighting'. A lot of the 'high key' stuff you might see now days has become quite outrageous and in my humble opinion is a label given to excuse extreme over exposure lacking any balanced control between subject and background. But that's just me.

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    I'd agree with you, norwest. In my opinion, high key is better suited to the studio where the lighting is totally under control. Fred Hunt in Brisbane was a master of high key.
    Dutch, I don't know of any books which deal with the topic. You'd have to go back to anything published in the thirties.

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    Arch-Σigmoid Ausphotography Regular ameerat42's Avatar
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    In the light of the foregoing, I can imagine MangroveDutch out beating the bush in his quest to shun the shadows that so aggrieve him.
    And so as one we say, Go with Fortune, Dutch!
    (Or is that going Dutch?)

    Oh, well. Here's to some high, key shots soon.
    m.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ameerat42 View Post
    In the light of the foregoing, I can imagine MangroveDutch out beating the bush in his quest to shun the shadows that so aggrieve him.
    And so as one we say, Go with Fortune, Dutch!
    (Or is that going Dutch?)

    Oh, well. Here's to some high, key shots soon.
    m.
    I think that's the key to it.

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    I totally agree with you norwest, I have enjoyed seeing numerous images that people try to emulate. The results seem to be badly over exposed shots with a lot of blown highlights and very little detail or contrast. In my opinion, the photo should retain a certain amount of detail and contrast. All I see these days are images that capture faces that have hints of eyes, lips and if lucky some part of the nose, and if they are still in colour, horrible washed out colours that scream a really bad shot - yet put under the title of High Key, it is deemed a good shot . Most of the photos that I have seen have been from the era you describe Stan, though some are recent and are fantastic, which tells me that it is possible with the digital age. I will search out information on Fred Hunt, and see what comes up.

    Something tells me that it will be a lot of trial and error to get the results that I am looking for.

    Thanks all that have left comments, I do appreciate it. As you say ameerat, maybe I should hope for fortune in this quest. Great quote.

    Regards, Dutch

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    Sorry to be blunt but maybe the way forward is to go try it. Get out there and have a play.

    I know, no subjects, none of your friends will pose!!. Go buy a large stuffed toy, I used to have a Mickey and Minnie Mouse. I would set my lights up and practice on them. Nowhere near as satisfying as a real person but I did get to see where the light was falling.

    If you have a large stuffed toy and walked into your yard today, you could play with 100 settings and discover the holy grail you seek. Then, when you want to do it with real people, you will know the tricks, settings...etc and grab that shot.

    Quit ummm and ahhh and go try it.
    Last edited by fess67; 12-10-2012 at 9:25pm.

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    Not blunt at all Fess, that's exactly what I have been doing in the small amount of time I have had. I have been talking to a friend who has a mannequin that I can borrow. I think it has more to do with getting the fill flash/reflector just right (the angle and the amount that reflects back off the face) than it has to do with the settings. I was hoping to find some set up diagrams, but that would also change as the natural light changes.

    The question of the white-balance settings is one that I had not considered until I just re-read your post. Light bulb moment - thanks Fess

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