Beginner’s guide to lowkey photography


I have always been fascinated by lowkey photography because it generates a really special atmosphere, and after I got my studio I have really enjoyed shooting lowkey. But do not think that this photography technique is too hard for you, and that you don't have the right equipment! Before I got my studio lamps and my black background I used alternatives to theese, and this post will be split into two parts; a 'proper' setup guide and an alternative setup guide.

The 'proper' setup

You will need a:

black background

studio lamp

light reflector in silver or gold (depending on the colours you want)


And the setup will look like this:

This setup is just a guide and you do not have to follow this properly.
The light source has to hit the side of the subject without hitting the background, and depending on the subject and the style of the photo the light source can be moved to hit the subject directly from the side - but try different placements out and see what works for you!

The reflector is very important - escpecially when photographing people and animals. It softly fills in the shadows and light up the eyes so they don't come out as a black void in the photographs.

When it comes to adjusting the camera settings you want to keep the aperture as high as possible. I shoot with an aperture around f/4 if i use my Canon EF-USM 24-105mm f/4.0 lens. The ISO should be as low as possible depending on the intensity of the light. I shoot with a ISO around 100 or 200 - sometimes 400 if the light source isn't very strong or if I don't have a tripod with me. After adjusting the aperture to the highest and ISO to the lowest possible you want to adjust the shutter speed to what is suited for the exposure and motive.

The alternative setup:

The picture above was taken before i got my studio and I used the same method for this that I will describe now.

You will need a:

black background (either a dark room, black wall or the like)

flash light, work lamp or daylight

homemade light reflector


The setup is the same as the other method:

The dark background isn't necessarily a black screen, it can also be a dark room. Just remember the room doesn't have to be pitch-black, you can always make the scenery darker by changing the exposure on the camera.

The light source can be a flashlight or a work light or any light source you have - just think creative! If you don't have any light source alternative you can always use daylight and have the subject stand outside of the black room or in front of the black background. If u shoot in a dark room it is very import that the light source does not point towards the background, because if so it will reveal items in the background, and it will not create the halo effect we want in the photograph.

For the reflector you can use a cardboard covered with tinfoil, which work just as good as a reflector.

The camera settings should be the same as described in the method above. If you have a lens with an maximum aperture on f/1.8 or f/1.4 it would be even better because the bigger the aperture the more light the lens lets in. The ISO might have to be 400 or 800 if the brightness of the light is lower than a studio light. On the picture above the ISO was 1600 which is very high - especially when shooting lowkey, and you can see that there is a lot of iso noice in the picture which you want to avoid by having a low ISO value as possible.

I hope this guide was helpful. You are always welcome to leave questions in the comments!

If you want me to make a post about setting the camera and writing about how camera exposure works let me know in the comments!

Anja xx

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20 Comment

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this amazing tips! Your photography is absolutely amazing!
    Vanessa x |

    1. anjan says: Reply

      Thank you so much for the sweet comment! I’m glad it helped!
      Anja x

  2. Annabelle says: Reply

    Love this, thank you for sharing these useful tips! Love the photos and your dog is so cute!!

    x Annabelle

    1. anjan says: Reply

      Thank you very much for the sweet comment, and I am glad you liked the post!
      Anja x

  3. I absolutely love your blog.. Very nice colors & theme.

    Did you build this website yourself? Please reply back as I’m hoping
    to create my own site and would love to learn where you got
    this from or just what the theme is named. Cheers!

  4. anjan says: Reply

    Thank you so much! And yes I did. I created this website with wordpress and I use the theme activello. It isn’t really that hard after you’ve sorted the basics out, but you can always watch youtube tutorials to improve your skills. Good luck with it!

  5. Love this so much!!! Great tips, need to test them out! 🙂

    xx Sofia | SOFIAADOT

    1. anjan says: Reply

      Thank you very much!
      I am glad you liked the post.
      Anja xx

  6. your dog is so cute! thanks for sharing these tips..

    1. anjan says: Reply

      Thank you so much! I am glad to help!
      Anja xx

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