About a month ago, the last time I had a week off of my day job, I decided to try my hand at different lighting/shooting techniques. Basically, every day I gave myself the goal of trying something new. This can be amazingly effective to kickstart the creative juices, especially if you feel like your photography is in a creative rut.

Around that same time, I had a like-minded twitter friend add me to a list of photographers at 500px. I had no idea what or who 500px was at first, but browsing through the website, it was easy to see that there was thousands of incredible images from a ton of different photographers.

They also have a great tutorial/education center where they teach for free awesome lighting/shooting techniques that any professional can find really useful and implement to make some incredible images.

One of the tutorials taught me how to do low-key photography and do it in a scientific, step-by-step way that was 100 times better than the haphazard and clumsy way I’ve tried to replicate the effect by myself.

So, with only the intentions of practicing it and hoping to get some interesting photos, I tried my hand at it.

Basically, for anyone who’s interested low-key photography is eliminating all ambient light to a camera and solely using flashes to illuminate your subject. It’s used a lot in portrait photography and you can use it in varying degrees of ambient light. For example some people used it during sunsets and still had an incredible background that showed up in the photo but the subject was still dark.

For me, I wanted it completely black and I used one flash at varying angles. Here’s a couple of the photos I got.


I was pretty excited about all the results but it was never quite what I was looking for. Without barn doors or a snoot on my flash I was having a hard time reigning in the light spillage which was falling on the background behind my niece.

Without a black backdrop, there was too much wall showing up and so I kept on moving the angle of the flash behind the subject and coming at an angle more toward me. Making the angle more extreme, I finally got this.


Not only was this the exact effect I was trying to replicate, but the very image itself really brought a lot of my own personal feelings out. And, that’s what art is supposed to be about right, showing more of what’s on the inside of the artist and not just a pretty picture.

Obviously this is different from when I’m shooting for clients that hire me to take beautiful portraits of them, but this has definitely inspired me to start a personal project with portraits of people with this effect and to see what I can get. Anyone who’s interested and willing. Casting call to everyone ….

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