A closer look to High Key Lighting and Low Key Lighting,
The two main lighting methods that you will always find in cinematography, filmmaking and photography are high key and low key lighting. Each one of them offers unique benefits.
High Key Lighting:
High key lighting is a style frequently used in makeup, beauty advertisement and comedies. A high key look provides soft shadows and leaves the subject clean and elegant. It makes use of a large quantity of light which spreads across the whole scene. It is helpful also for food or product shooting.
A high key lighting style usually includes a soft light straight from the camera: putting the light in front of the subject produces fewer shadows, creates a smoother skin and, also, a gorgeous catch light in the protagonist’s eyes.
High key is also helpful in the beauty industry beacause the lighting source is farther off, evem ten feet away, which makes the transition from highlight to shadow smoother and less sharp.
High key illumination is excellent for shots with two subjects as it helps to ensure each subject becomes lit equally and to scatter fewer shadows.
This was the very first and the unique lighting style operable in ancient photography.
Today high key illumination found its own niche in comedy industry, it’s a way to brightly color personalities and the audience can see clearly all the objects that are on the stage
Low Key Lighting:
Instead of high key light, low key light is quite a bit more suggestive, since that generally entails a lot of contrast and generates almost opposite feelings, compared to high key lighting.
The transition of low key lighting, from highlight to shadow, is quite a bit faster and more striking. This lighting style is really close to the subject, and also the source of light is adjusted to accomplish this. It is precisely for this reason that sometimes when we light a subject on a white background, it will look black due to how close the lighting is to it, producing a very dramatic and emotional scene.
Low key lighting style is very popular today, it became trendy between 1941 and 1958.
The choice between high key and low key depends on the mood that the shot aims to communicate: the first one transmits happiness, while the second one spreads drama and suspense. Basically, the decision on the high key mode, instead of the low key, is conditioned by the atmosphere that the DoP, filmmaker, cinematographer or photographer wants to communicate to its audience.