What is the Key light in photography? How to use it effectively?

Updated on December 2, 2022 in Photography by

What is the Key light in photography? How to use it effectively?

Lighting in photography is the key element. From choosing the right tone and to angle how light falls, there’s a lot to learn. But among all the things we share on PixelPhant, I’d like to talk about Key light in photography with you.

It is one of the most important photography lights and in this article, I am sharing everything that you must know about it.

Without taking any more time, let’s get started with the definition first.

What is the key light in photography?

Key light in photography is one of the most important parts of the lighting setup in photography and cinematography. It is the particular lighting that is focused directly on the subject or the model. It is used to highlight and create contrast in the image through various methods.

If you are getting started with photography, especially portrait, fashion, and product photography – learning about the key light photography purpose and types is highly recommendable.

And that is why I am sharing with you everything to help you learn about key lights and how to use them professionally. I’d also recommend you read the ultimate product photography lighting guide where you can learn everything about the kit, setup, and more

What is the purpose of key light in photography?

The main purpose of key light in photography is to highlight the subject and showcase the dimensions. The light helps in enhancing the scene by illuminating the area of focus.

The lighting also helps in creating a contrast in the photography to highlight one section of the whole photograph or a section of the subject.

The key light is the light with the highest intensity that is focused and helps draw the attention of the viewer.

Types of key lighting

Based on the intensity of key lighting used in photography, there are two types of key lighting

High key lighting

High key lighting

High-key lighting is a bright scene. In a scene where there are minimum shadows, the focus is on the highlight and the whole scene is well-illuminated and easy to see.

The scenes are usually fun and enjoyable by nature, and very less preparation is required in terms of lighting. The use of backlight, fill light, and reflector is very common to make the subject stand out in the scene.

Low key lighting

Low key lighting

Low key lighting is surely one of the most dramatic styles of lighting that is being used. Here the emphasis is on the shadows, the blacks through which the key light falls on the subject, illuminating just enough to create drama in the scene.

Compared to high-key lighting, setting up low-key lighting is much more difficult. Especially controlling the right, ensuring it falls perfectly and nothing but the subject stays in focus.

Usually no backlights or fill lights are heavily imposed, but key light in photography can be easily distinguished in the scene.

Bonus Read

The use of key light in photography, its placement, and how you use it directly affects the mood you are typing to bring out in your photography. That is why learning about it, high key and low-key lighting is really important.

In addition, I’ll also recommend you learn about strobe lighting in the recent guide. You’ll learn about the benefits and how to use the strobe light like a pro.

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