How to create a High Key Photography Effect in Photoshop

Naturally, High Key portraits should be done with a studio lighting and it is good to have  at least three light sources, plus  reflectors.  Photographer for a purpose overexposing most of the objects in a scene, making them look just pure white. Very few shadows can be left on a model’s face.

However, with the mister PhotoShop in charge, we can have the same effect on a regular, normally exposed image.  Below I’ll show you how to do
a pseudo High Key photography using Photoshop.

High key effect made in Photoshop

High key portrait created in Photoshop

The original image:

Original portrait Image

Original portrait Image

1 step

Desaturate image if you like black and white photography:

Image–Adjustment–Desaturate

I like to  desaturate it, but not completely,  leaving some color:

Image–Adjustment–Hue/Saturation

Adjustment in Photoshop - Hue/Saturation

Adjustment in Photoshop - Hue/Saturation

2 step

Apply unsharp mask:

Filter–Sharping–Unsharp Mask

Using unsharp mask in photoshop

Using unsharp mask in photoshop

3 step

Make light areas on the image more lighter and dark areas darker using levels.
Play with sliders  (do not copy mine) , you’ll you have a different image:

Image–Adjustment–Levels

Using levels for high key photography effect

Using levels for high key photography effect

4 step

Now we will use Dodge tool to make middle areas even more lighter:

Using Dodge tool in Photoshop

Using Dodge tool in Photoshop

step 5

Make image more contrast, if you like:

Image–Adjustment–Levels

The final image should look like this:

High key effect made in Photoshop

High key effect made in Photoshop

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3 comments to How to create a High Key Photography Effect in Photoshop

  • The problem I have with high key light effect is that too often the subject looks too washed out. I never use high key.

  • I do not use this effect quite often too, but it works very well for a maternity and baby portraits.

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