Harmony and Balance (and high key and low key)

I am going to combine several elements of composition in this exercise:   harmony and balance and high and low key lighting.
The principle element of the composition must occupy a strong position in the frame (refer to "Subject" page)

If we divide the frame into thirds both horizontally and vertically, there are four places around the center of the frame that are visually areas of strength.  This is where we want to place our main subject.  If we have only one subject and a large area of open space we will compensate by moving the subject a little closer to the middle.  You will notice that having the subject in the exact middle will give it a cold and static look.  You should remember this if you are ever in a situation in which you want a cold and static look.  It could happen.  It is possible that you have a composition in mind in which symmetry is the most important element.

Note: although we are concentrating on the subject in an area of strength near the center of the composition, it is very important to look around the rest of the frame too make sure that there are no areas of contrast or highlights near the edges that will move the main subject of the photo.

Our first shot will be low-key very dark on a dark background.  Low key photographs should be moody, mysterious, dramatic and somber. To meter this shot, fill your lens with just the high-light.  Set your fstop and shutter speed for the high-light reading and move to your position of composition.

Take this shot and then take another with a one or two stop smaller fstop.  This should give you blacker black and more saturation in the color of the object.

Now we change to a white background and do the same thing only this time we will over expose by one stop larger aperture.  This is high key, delicate, airy, concerned with the incredible lightness of being.  Great for nudes, and baby pictures.  The best viewpoint for this high key photo will be one that hides most or all of the shadow.

The High Key and Low Key technique is great for portraits.  For Low Key Portraits meter just the highlights on the subject.  For most portraits you will want to "BackLight" the subject to get that nice glow in the hair.  Remember to get in close to meter just the face and shoot at that setting.  In both of these situations, if you meter the whole scene your subject will be to light in low key and too dark in high key.  If you think that sounds wrong try it.  But try it my way too and don't forget to over-expose High Key and under-expose Low Key.  If you are using an automatic camera there may be a window in the front that the camera reads light through.  This tells the camera if the flash needs to be activated.  When shooting a high key shot or back lit portrait with one of these cameras you may be able to fool it into giving you "Fill Flash" by covering this window with your finger and thus avoid turning the subject into a silhouette.


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