Studio Quality High Key Lighting without the Studio!

I call the sun my outdoor studio because it offers unlimited backgrounds, unlimited lighting patterns and near unlimited possibilities! I love it! This article will show you a great way to get the high key studio look using the sun as your light source.

The tools needed:

  1. A camera which allows you to manually control your exposure settings (aperture and shutter speed).
  2. An incident light meter (I suggest the Polaris SPD100 meter because it handles most all types of metering and at $159.00 it also is the cheapest!)
  3. 2 Diffusion panels (Consider building a home made panel which can be made for under 20 dollars from white ripstop nylon and pvc pipe frames). See the article, What’s a diffusion panel.
  4. Plenty of sun!

High Key Lighting Example 1

How to create the high key image outdoors:

  1. Set up a white diffuser or diffusion panel behind your subject like a backdrop. (Make sure the sun is behind diffuser but not necessarily low in the sky)
  2. Set up a second diffuser above your subject.
  3. Take a meter reading of the subject while he/she is within the created tent by setting your meter to around 1/125 second and holding your meter just under your subject’s chin with the incident dome facing the camera position.
  4. Set the f/stop setting on your camera according to the meter recommendation. Be sure to experiment with the look by adjusting the exposure up or down to taste.
  5. FIRE!

Thats it – there it is! Now, I never studied under the late Monte Zucker but this technique is what helped to make him famous. I happened onto it by accident. I then began to research it and found out that Monte Zucker had been using this technique since the 70’s – amazing! There is nothing new under the sun (pun intended)!

Here are my results from a recent photo shoot. I like it, my client likes it… I know you will too!

High Key Lighting Example 2

Now get outta here and start shooting!

P.S. Want a sneaky way to do this? Get a 5 foot by 12 foot piece of white rip stop nylon from a fabric store. Then, take build two large “L” shapes with 2 cross sections holding them together from PVC tubing available from a hardware store. Clip your fabric to the frame and use it as a diffusion tent. The prince of cheap has struck again!

Published by David Griffin

The Prince of Cheap I am a "Jesus Freak" and a DIY photography junkie! I'm also the *second* cheapest man alive... but only 'cause my Dad is the first!