Studio Portrait, Using High-Key, Clamshell Lighting

High-Key Clamshell Lighting in the Studio

A studio portrait with Katrina

I love this look. I love the brightness of the shot. I love its lightness (click on the image to get the real deal).

High-key lighting means that the image “data” is shifted toward the lightest end of the tonal spectrum—meaning that the shot is extremely bright, but not overexposed. Only her eyes, lips and scarf are in the “normal” exposure zone producing a striking effect. And you just have to love the sharpness of the eyes and lashes—it pulls me right in. There is a fair amount of preparation that goes into a shot like this, but for me, it’s well worth it. If a studio portrait is done correctly, it means less time in front of the computer monitor and that’s something that I really appreciate in our monitor-age. More photography; less Photoshop. Yes. If I had used a light scarf around her face, the effect would have been different again with even more data in the upper end of the tonal range. Next time.

As the name suggests, clamshell lighting is when two lights are used in a clamshell formation—one pointing down from above at about a 45-degree angle and the other below her face, pointing upward. The effect creates even illumination with virtually no shadows. I love it.  I hope you do, too.

I love shooting outdoors using ambient light or a mix of natural and ambient light, but the studio is fascinating because it lends itself to more complex studio portrait lighting setups. In my Tin Town studio, I like to play with creative lighting setups just to see what happens. That’s something we all need in our lives, too—more play. You can check out more portraits here.

Bye for now and thanks for checking in.

Gordon Ross




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