Tutorial Tuesday | Low Key Photography


Welcome to Tutorial Tuesday! Ashley of Ramblings and Photos and I will be bringing you a new challenge every week, to stretch your shooting and editing skills. This week I am sharing a tutorial on how to do Low Key Photography. I have been wanting to try this for a little while. I am new so if you have any tips feel free to share in the comments.


In traditional photography there are three types of lighting used a key light, a fill light, and a back light for even illumination. Low-key lighting requires only one,  key light. This is controlled with a light and maybe even a reflector.

Here is a pull back of my set up taken with my iPhone. I had a black fabric shower curtain hanging on the wall behind the door. Then I had the door cracked open and I was standing where the reflector is. I used that to shine some light on his face.

Below are some photos of Dustyn. It is hard to get a 4 year old to face the right way and to stay still, but overall I am happy with them.

{settings: ISO 200, f/2.2, ss 1/80}

Some tips to follow:

You will want a black background or a dark room. Then you want to have some type of light source that you can shine on your subject or indirectly bounce onto the subject.

If you have a studio and lights this is easy but when you do not have access to that it is pretty difficult. Just work with what you have. If you have to adjacent rooms that would be easy. Just have your subject stand in the dark room and use the light from the room adjacent to it.

Set your ISO as low as possible. Keeping your ISO low will give you good image quality, keeping it both dark and noise-free.

Start with a wide open aperture and adjust from there.

You have endless possibilities with light, but one thing you do not want is the light to touch the background. You want the background to be dark.

You will want to move around your lighting and your subject until the shadows fall where you want them. This is so easy but hard at the same time. I am sure it would be easier with a still object.

I personally think low key photos looks best in black and white. I used Pioneer Woman’s Black and White Beauty action on these. Before that I edited with Coffeeshops Perfect Portrait action and brighten up parts of his face. I also darkened the shadows a tad to give you that dark contrast.


 Ready to join in the fun? Here’s how to do it:

1. Read through today’s tutorial.
2. Choose your favorite shot (or more!) to share with us.
3. Don’t forget to grab the button for your post!
4. Link up between now and next Monday.

Tutorial Tuesday

PS: If you have any photography or editing suggestions, please don’t hesitate to let Ashley or me know! We would love to feature your tutorial.


Linking up: Sweet Shot52 Weeks of Happiness and Communal Global

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  1. says

    I am trying to get out of using automatic all the time and I have learnt about the shutter speed and the ISO setting but the one thing I struggle to understand is the aperture, what is it and how do I change it ?? Would appreciate any help.

    Gonna have a go at this tommorrow so I can hopefully link up x x

  2. says

    SUCH fabulous shots Sarah! The black shower curtain is a great idea. Next time I see one on sale, I’m going to snatch it up!

  3. says

    I’m really enjoying these tutorials! And the pull-back to show how to set this up is really very helpful! I love the effect of the lighting on the mood of the photo, and how fantastic his eyes look in this!

  4. says

    Your portraits are ridiculously perfect! I LOVE them! I goofed on mine…I forgot that you recommended using the lowest ISO possible, and set mine really high, so my image is grainy. Even still, I’ve learned something new, and I love the image I captured of my son. Thank you for such a neat tutorial! I’m going to try a similar set up to yours soon! Maybe my 5 year old will cooperate for one or two shots…maybe.

  5. says

    I’m glad you showed your set up- like I told Ashley- I usually fail at this so maybe I will have to try again. Your’s came out really AWESOME!

  6. says

    I really love your tips – I also had some images that looked more low key after processing…but I knew the reality of the conditions so I didn’t post them. It’s definitely a technique I want to practice more with.