How to achieve the look.
The secret to creating high-key images and videos is using large light sources and soft shadows. Large softboxes or diffusers are effective for brightly lighting a scene without adding harsh shadows to your subject. “The larger your source of light, the softer your shadows look,” Hara notes. “The smaller the light, the harder they look.” High-key images often have lighter backgrounds as well, which helps reflect and amplify the ambient light in a scene.
While your goal is to soften and reduce shadows, “never put a light directly in front of your subject, because that’s just going to flatten everything,” as videographer Kenton Waltz explains. Try placing your light sources 30 degrees or so out from the camera. This angle, combined with a well-lit scene and fill light, will give your subject dimension without creating harsh shadows. Your lighting set-up while filming is essential for successful high-key imagery, but tweaking your exposure and brightness levels in post-production can help you to perfect your video.
Capturing drama with low-key lighting.
Shooting a low-key video results in darker shadows and a minimal amount of whites and midtones. As Hara notes, “Low-key lighting has been around in the art world for a long time in the form of chiaroscuro.” Chiaroscuro is when an artist uses a high contrast between light and dark to create a dramatic mood and draw the viewer’s eye to one part of the composition. Nowadays, low-key lighting serves a similar function in video and is characterised by its dark shadows and mysterious mood.