Low key portraiture is all about light and shadow control. You need to understand light to do it. Lindsay Adler provides a useful tutorial:
What is Low Key Lighting?
Low key portraits utilize dark backgrounds, shadows, and low light. The resulting images tend to be dramatic with high contrast.
Inverse Square Law
Knowing how light behaves will certainly play a great role in your low key portraiture. Alder makes use of the inverse square law by getting the subject closer to the light and moving both the light and the subject further from the wall. Therefore, by the inverse square law of light, the model gets way more light and the wall gets dark since it’s much further away from the light source.
You should know that it’s easier to separate the subject from the background—you don’t need black backdrop.
Another thing to keep in mind is reflected light. If you are in a tiny room, it might reflect light off the walls.
With just one light and some experimentation, you can create dramatic, low key portraits without any special equipment.
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