Post-processing: High-key vs. Low-key

While we’re all cooped up inside, now is a great time to play around with post-processing. This is a pretty easy technique and can be done in Lightroom alone. An added bonus, Adobe is offering 2 months free for the creative cloud subscription. Head over here for a step-by-step guide.

Now, back to the actual post-processing. Here’s what the original file looks like, with a little cleanup, but nothing drastic.

In Lightroom, make a virtual copy by going to photo -> create virtual copy.

Then, in your basics menu on the right convert to black and white and begin playing with exposure, contrast, clarity and maybe highlights and shadows. There are no hard and fast rules to this, it’s all a matter of taste. These are the settings I used for this particular image.

And don’t forget to scroll down to the B&W sliders and play with the colors to make adjustments. The image really only has blue and a bit of yellow in so I played with the blue slider, moving the yellow didn’t do too much in this case. You can move any of the other colors around to your heart’s content but if that color isn’t in the image nothing will happen.

And, here’s the high-key version, simple as that!

Now, if you want more drama and a different feel, go low-key. Again, make another virtual copy of the color image. Then convert to black and white. Here, I mostly played with the black slider, highlights and contrast. Again, it’s a matter of taste so just play around. No strict rules.

Back to the B&W color sliders. And instead of increasing the blue, I decreased it which makes the sky and the reflected blue in the steel much darker.

Again, pretty simple, but quite a different feel.

Personally, I think both versions work well, it’s simply a matter of taste. Or, if you’re like me, mood. Both have value and use. This doesn’t work for every image but it’s something else to consider while post-processing. And, if you find yourself bored, a good time to try some new things. Enjoy! And be sure to share with us on Facebook or Instagram. We always love seeing what you’re up to!



5 Responses

  1. Thanks Angie! I learned a great deal from you at the New Orleans workshop and these tips are fantastic for going forward. Take care!!

  2. Hello Angie, thank you so much for demonstrating the low/high key techniques, that was so helpful!

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