Low-key lighting: how to shut out ambient light and plunge into shadows

Low-key lighting: how to shut out ambient light and plunge into shadows

How to set up your camera for low-key lighting: steps 5-8

How to set up your camera for low-key lighting: step 5

05 Flash settings
Now we need to set the camera’s pop-up flash to trigger our external flashgun. Select the first shooting menu, scroll down to ‘Flash control’ and press ‘Set’.

Next scroll down to ‘Built-in flash func’, press ‘Set’ and then scroll down to ‘Wireless func’ and press ‘Set’. You want to select the third option here, to fire just the external flashgun.

SEE MORE: What is flash sync – what your flash modes do and how to use them

How to set up your camera for low-key lighting: step 6

06 Test the flash
Set the flashgun to Slave mode (refer to your manual for how to do this), and make sure your camera and flashgun are set to the same channel so they can communicate; the default channel on your camera is 1.

Set your flashgun to Manual, and place it in front of your model to one side. Set the power to one-quarter to start with, take a test shot, and increase the flash power if your model appears underexposed.

SEE MORE: Studio Lighting: 4 seriously simple lighting techniques to try at home

How to set up your camera for low-key lighting: step 7

07 Flash adjustments
If some of the background is illuminated and your subject is still underexposed, increase the flash power and move the flashgun more to the side of your subject, so that less light is falling on the backdrop.

Alternatively, you can move the flash closer to your model and reduce the power; the closer it is the less power will be required, and this will also reduce the amount of light hitting the backdrop.

 

How to set up your camera for low-key lighting: step 8

08 Start shooting
If you want to soften the effect of the flash you can direct the light into a light modifier, such as a reflective umbrella, to create a more diffuse light; you can achieve a similar effect by using a reflector to bounce the light back on to your model. When you’re happy with your exposure and flash settings, switch your lens to AF and start shooting.

Expert tip
For low-key portraits it’s best if your subject wears dark clothing to add to the overall mood; darker tones will also merge into the background nicely if you want to create deep shadows.

If you’re shooting a head-and-shoulders portrait of a female subject a sleeveless black top is ideal, as you’ll be able to pick out highlights on the shoulders for added interest.

PAGE 1: How to set up your camera for low-key lighting: steps 1-4
PAGE 2: How to set up your camera for low-key lighting: steps 5-8
PAGE 3: How to edit portraits with low-key lighting

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