A high-key portrait tends to be lit from the front, creating a relatively shadow-free image. The over-exposed highlights help to smooth out skin tones and dial down distracting details so that key features such as the eyes and lips stand out more dramatically.
The challenge with high-key portrait photography comes when deliberately over-exposing a shot to produce bright flat skin tones while preserving shadows and midtones on the eyes and lips.
It’s all too easy to go too far and lose valuable detail throughout the entire tonal range, especially if you shoot in compressed JPEG format, rather than raw format.
So here, we’ll show you how to unleash the power of the Photoshop Elements Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) editor to increase the brightness of a correctly exposed portrait and create the flat wash of bright highlights associated with high-key photography.
Because raw files have more tonal information than a JPEG, you can reveal as much highlight detail as you like post-shoot, while giving the tones of key features such as the eyes and lips an independent tweak to produce a portrait that has far more punch.
Because our subject is blonde, we’ll demonstrate how to use Adobe Camera Raw’s Exposure slider to blow out the highlights in her hair so that it merges with the white studio background, creating a clean and delicate high-key look that flatters her feminine features.
We’ll also show you how to tone down the image’s colour intensity to create a delicate palette that complements the overall effect.
For more on editing raw files, check out our ongoing Raw Tuesday series.
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