Hai High Key!

Capturing too much light
Makes my photographs upbeat
Too bright can be good

Yes, apologies, that was a sorry excuse for a haiku – but “high-key” sounded just too much like haiku to not include it.

I took a high-key photo by chance this afternoon, and as has happened before, it turned out to be my favorite shot of the day.

My first introduction to high-key was last winter, when I spent an afternoon at the Laboratory of Ornithology taking pictures of ducks and geese. When I loaded up the card after getting home, there was one picture that I really liked – but I never shared it, because it broke what I knew to be the rules of photography: significant parts of it were completely blown out (photographese for “so white that it doesn’t get recorded.”) The duck itself, however, was unharmed.

High-key duck

High-key duck

As it turned out, even though this was too bright by chance, there’s a name for a technique that involves overexposing photographs in order to make them look bright and happy: high-key photography. In its simplest form, it just involves bumping the exposure compensation up on the camera after metering.

A few months later, in late summer, I played around with backlighting flowers outdoors. This also turned out to be high-key of a sort, although I think to be official the subject would need to be brighter.

High-Key Loosestrife

High-Key Loosestrife

It’s been just over a year since I took that duck picture. I’ve learned enough now to know that for some purposes, blown out is OK and can even be desirable. I’m not afraid to share these any more.

Flowering Tree

Too bright can be good

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