Help with high key

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blackmelas

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I've been admiring some high key portraits and I've been having trouble getting it right in the darkroom mostly getting soft or even muddy results. I've been starting with a standard negative or sometimes with a low contrast negative. Does anyone have any hints? Should I start with a high contrast filter and shorten exposure?
Thanks,
James
 

Bob Carnie

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Hi James

This is a common problem with High Key images , because of the white there is more chances to flare. When I am printing white background I always start at a higher contrast to bring back the *snap*.
Difficult subject matter to get done correctly as all the flare.
the problem could also be in the original capture. Are you goboing the lights to reduce bounce back to the camera lens.??
 

Claire Senft

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suggestion

The last time I had a problem with high key, I used a ladder. It was very helpful.

You will want to make sure that your background receives a very healthy dosage of light.. two or more stops birighter than your subject. I am assuming that you are using white paper or fabric and wish to have a textureless background that is pure white. The foreground should be more normally lit..I am assuming that you will want good detail and texture. Your exposure should be for your subject not the background. If your want as little shadow as possible on your subject than light it so that the lighting ratio is low. The more you "over expose" the background the more pronounced will be the flare at the edges of your subject. I would reccomend normal development. I am assuming that this is to be a B&W photo.
 

ScottH

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FWIW - The most "success" I've had with highkey work (very close-up portraits of kids) was from underexposed negs (not intentionally) and developed normally. I then printed at grade 4 (maybe 4.5) to get some deeper tones - mainly eyelashes/eyebrows to really jump. Keep in mind I was working the final result from the "print end", rather than starting from an intentional high key neg and moving forward from there... I'll certainly follow this thread and see what someone with more experience in this has to say.
 
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this might not be of much use, but the printing method i usually use could likely be nice for printing high key prints...... 'split grade' printing with variable contrast filters, there is surely stuff about it here somewhere.

i havnt seen your negatives, but i would start out getting an exposure with a #00 filter, lets say its 15secs, then throw in some #5 filter once you get a decent hilight tone with your #00, using the #5 to bring in the blacks....... lets say its 10 secs at #5 then, after you get a good mix between the #00 and #5 i might throw on a #1 or #2 for a few seconds to 'bring it all together'..... it seems to me this would be very usefull for such printing...
 
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