High key vs over-exposed

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Acerebel
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Posted Tue Jan 4, 2005 10:25PM
Can anyone explain the difference (with visual examples, if possible) between high key and over-exposed? I don't quite get it, and when I upload what I think is high key, I'm told that the photos are over-exposured . Obviously, I'm missing the point somewhere and would appreciate some help from any of you who understand it. Many thanks in advance!

(Edited on 2005-01-05 03:08:13 by Acerebel)
hidesy
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Posted Wed Jan 5, 2005 2:31AM
Not sure I'm really qualified, as I still get one or two rejections for over exposure

Here's my take on it though. If you have the right tonal range you're ok... that is to say blacks on your image (such as dark shadows or pupils of eyes) are black, the rest can be pale. One way to look at this is via the histogram. If you have nothing in the lower registers it's over exposed. If you have most in the higher registers, but still spread completely over the whole histogram it's high key.

I don't know if it helps, but that's my experience.

Good luck
absolutely_frenchy
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Posted Wed Jan 5, 2005 2:36AM
I'm not sure but I think although they are both bright images, high key must preserve good contrast whereas overexpose will turn the original darker tones into a lighter grey.

Normally it should go this way, :

- choose to open wider you lens instead of setting a long time exposure > high key images.

- choose to set longer time exposure instead of opening wider you lens > overexposed images.

I hope that will help.

[edit] ONCE AGAIN I WAS TOO LONG TO EDIT... [/edit]

(Edited on 2005-01-05 02:40:09 by absolutly_frenchy)
hidesy
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Posted Wed Jan 5, 2005 2:38AM
here's a manufactured example:

Overexposed
overexposed

Highkey
highkey
Acerebel
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Posted Wed Jan 5, 2005 3:05PM
Thanks, kids! It's all much clearer now and I can go away and experiment a bit! When are you both starting sites with tutorials!??!???!
rodkosmos
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Posted Thu Jan 6, 2005 8:40PM
Hi key is usually referred to as an image containig mainly lght tones .
That is that any part image when measured in Photoshop will read 128 or more.

T produce a white background in a image expose the white arrea 2.5 stops above the mid point.

In practical terms read the subject exposure with a hand held meter
e.g. F8
Then take a reflected light reading off the white background and make it
F16.3

It shiuold then have a minimum of detail but be very light and measure about 240 on the Photoshop scale.

Make it any lighter when exposing may cause flare.
It can always made lighter in post prcessing.
Simple!
Rod
shorebreak
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Posted Fri Jan 7, 2005 3:38PM
high key simply says that most image areas are of light tonal range but not without detail.
(black is still there like in the example above)

overexposure will lose detail in the light areas and black will be grey.
Photographer1773
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Posted Fri Jan 7, 2005 6:02PM
Yeah. What shorebreak said.

I was recently reading about low key photography and the example they gave was that high key tends to predominate with tones above medium gray, whereas low key predominates with tones below medium gray, and of course in middle key, the majority of tones are middle gray.
Speare
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Posted Tue Jan 11, 2005 7:12AM

And don't confuse a "hot white" background with a "high key" photo, either.

If you're taking photos which have a flat white background, and you light the background properly, the background will appear completely white, while the rest of the subject is exposed properly. The subject's tonal range is irrelevant: it could be a coal-miner wearing a tuxedo. This is a hot white background.

If you're taking photos which have textures, details, or just pleasing bokeh variations in the background, or have no particular background visible (like the sample above), and the tones are mostly above middle, that's a high key photograph.

I suppose you can have a high key photo with a hot white background, too.

Another important point is that the goal of many images, but especially in high-key or low-key photographs, is to draw the attention of the eye to a small area that contrasts: the dark eyelashes in a sea of white skin, or the glowing face of a starlet in a shadowy room, etc. If you have competing contrasty areas, the eye will split its attention and the image will lose its punch.
Elfstrom
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Posted Tue Jan 11, 2005 7:44PM

I suppose you can have a high key photo with a hot white background, too.


Yes, a bride in her white wedding dress on a pure white background is one of the best examples of high-key.

The light meter would underexpose the image and you'd end up with a muddy washed out photo. But expose properly for the scene (using an incident light meter for example) and you'll have a definitive high-key image in this situation.
kreativebrain
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Posted Tue Jan 11, 2005 7:59PM
Is this a decent example of high key? It's a new one that I made over the weekend and have sitting in the queue.

HIGHKEY_small
lovleah
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Posted Wed Jan 12, 2005 7:38PM
There is a tutorial that explains how to achieve somethimg like this also using photoshop.

I won't give the steps here in case I impinge on copyright, but go down to your bookshop and open to page 8 of "Photoshop CS down and dirty tricks" to see the effect.

Hope it helps
Elfstrom
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Posted Thu Jan 13, 2005 4:07PM

Is this a decent example of high key? It's a new one that I made over the weekend and have sitting in the queue. :-)


I'd say it could be high-key but it's also clearly overexposed for the face.

Not necessarily bad; fashion is often over-exposed to flatten features.

(Edited on 2005-01-13 04:10:45 by Elfstrom)
kreativebrain
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Posted Thu Jan 13, 2005 6:25PM
This is what I was striving for.

It made it through the queue, so I guess it worked. Yay! Most of all, the model's father was thrilled with it and he's the one I was taking the photos for, mostly. I only did a couple of "high key" shots, the rest were all just "normal", I guess.

I thought the determining factor for high key was, as Hidesy put it, if the blacks of your image are black, the rest can be pale? In my photo, her eyes, hair, etc...are all black, it's just that the face is pale. The histogram for it looked even as well. Those were the governing factors that I used.
Elfstrom
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Posted Fri Jan 14, 2005 10:54AM
The way to think about high key is like a center-weighted average exposure meter in an SLR works.

Take the average brightness of all the pixels in your image. If it's significantly above 50% grey - yet the subject is properly exposed - then you have a high-key image. A polar bear in the snow will be a high-key image - there may not be any true blacks at all.

See: Lighting Techniques for High-Key portrait photography
Elfstrom
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Posted Fri Jan 14, 2005 10:56AM
I thought the determining factor for high key was, as Hidesy put it, if the blacks of your image are black, the rest can be pale? In my photo, her eyes, hair, etc...are all black, it's just that the face is pale. The histogram for it looked even as well. Those were the governing factors that I used.


No, that's just high contrast, not necessarily high key. High key images often don't have any full dark blacks at all. Likewise, low key images don't have any full white highlights at all.
Photographer1773
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Posted Tue Feb 8, 2005 9:52AM
I've just started working with high key photography in my little home made light box for the first time, and I see where the confusion comes from.
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