The best photography is not the result of a good technique. It is not the framing, nor the digital development that we apply that gives value to a photo. Nor is it the focal length of the lens, nor the size of the camera sensor with which we have taken it. What makes a snapshot a great photo is the reaction that this photo produces in the one who sees it, the emotions that it releases in it. The feelings it induces. Something like what poetry or music does. Leave photos in HDR or 3D ... If your photo captivates the viewer and causes an impression on it, you have succeeded. To provoke something in the viewer you have to make use of certain tools. One of those tools that usually work very well when "generating" a feeling in who sees the photo is the technique known as High Key / Low Key . Photos taken in High Key or Low Key usually carry a huge emotional load. You cannot see a photo in High Key and not feel invaded by positive feelings, peace, happiness and tenderness. Nor do you escape the feelings of intrigue and mystery that a photo in Low Key usually generates.

They are the typical photos that you see, you are impressed as a spectator, and it doesn't even occur to you to try to make them for how complicated they are, you think. You could not be more wrong. You already know that I don't write anything in this blog that isn't really easy to carry out. Today we have to learn to take pictures in Clave Alta and Clave Baja. In the next lines I will guide you, step by step, so that you can produce your first work in this technique. You will see that it is extremely easy to get captivating and full of feelings.


  1. You will need light, lots of light. Ideally, rely on one or two light bulbs (continuous light) that flood the frame of light. If you are going to play many times with the High Key you are interested in catching some light bulbs or softbox.
  2. Prepare a white background . Essential.
  3. Set the camera, in manual mode as usual, to a relatively large aperture (f / 5.6 would be enough, although if you want to lower af / 3.5 then it would not go wrong either). Make sure you have a minimum ISO (100), a shutter speed between 1/5 and 1/10 seconds. Increase the exposure to +2 EV.
  4. Since you are going to use a shutter speed that is not too fast, you will need a tripod, a remote trigger (to eliminate any possible vibration when shooting) and ask the subject not to move.
  5. Now shoot the photo.
I cannot give you an exact formula regarding adjustments, since certain factors such as the power of the light or flash bulbs you are going to use, the distance between the light source and the subject escape me. What I just gave you are orientations that I want you to use as a starting point to experiment, shoot, see the result and shoot again, and so on until you find the most appropriate configuration for the situation.


  1. Black background as you can imagine It has to be flat, without reliefs or glare. The idea is that it does not reflect any light.
  2. Light: Low Key does not mean absence of light, but shortage of it. In the Low Key the photographer uses a minimum amount of light distributed strategically, directing it only to the parts that interest the subject or object portrayed. In this case with a remote Flash would suffice. If the flash allows you to control its power, set it to a low power.
  3. Camera settings: There are no values ??from which you can leave by default. The only rule to keep in mind is that you have to play with the settings so that the less light enters the camera the better. I do not say that the whole dark photo comes out and the subject cannot even be distinguished. Nor should we go to that extreme but keep a subtle light that reveals only part of the body or face of our character.
  4. Now shoot the photo. Again, go shooting and reviewing the results.


As I said at the beginning, the High Key has a series of "typical" feelings and emotions that are associated with it. Therefore, there are more "ideal" situations and photographs to use this technique. Here are some ideas you can use to get inspired by your first High Key exercises:
  • Macro Photography
  • Margraritas
  • Children
  • Babies
  • Prejas and Weddings
  • Nudes
  • Female portraits


In the same way, here are other examples of themes that you can portray in Clave Baja:
  • Nudes (again)
  • Pictures
  • Profile portraits
  • Male portraits


If you planned to set up a session of High or Low Key in 10 minutes and move on to something else forget it. This technique requires time and desire. A typical ideal time to practice it would be the weekend, a Saturday morning or afternoon for example. If you like the photos taken in this technique you will enjoy the session. You learn a lot and even discover new things that you didn't know before, small details related to the operation of your camera. It is an experience. Do you know what is best of all? You will love your first photograph in Clave Alta or Clave Baja, but you will improve your results every time you do a session. Believe me, every time you practice the technique again, you will master it more. I hope you liked today's article. Practice what you learned and share your results. Oh, and if you enjoyed this tutorial, be sure to recommend it on your favorite social network. Thank you!

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