High Key/Pure White Tutorial

Videography: www.viewfindersmedia.com
Model: Black Papillon
Hair Stylist/Makeup Artist: Denise England/Denise’s Hair Studio 1-336-784-7711


One thing I love about photography is that there are just so many things to learn. It is a profession that allows you to use both your scientific and artistic sides. For this tutorial we will quickly go over the process of creating a high key pure white look without having to rely on Photoshop as a crutch to give this illusion of having pure white paper.

The setup as seen in this video is more advanced but a pure white/high key setup can be achieved with one light or even two. For the one light setup simply place your subject right in front of seamless white paper or a white wall. If you have access to two speed lights you can have one light illuminate the wall behind your subject and use the 2nd as the main light. Shadows can be filled in with a handheld reflector.

For those of you that want to create a full blown studio high key look that provides you with plenty of space here is one of several ways to setup your gear to achieve that.

List of items used in shoot

1. One roll of 9’ seamless white paper mounted on backdrop holder.

2. Two Studio strobes modified with medium soft boxes (to light the background).

3. Two black flags/gobos to block light from background lights.

4. Two 4×8 sheets of plain white tile board which can be purchased at your local hardware store

5. One main light

6. One fill light

7. A calibrated handheld light meter

Here are some photos from this session.



Below is a setup that I used in a home where we did a pure white shoot.  Once you know the basics you can literally turn any location into a temporary studio space. If I were to change something I’d replace the white GOBOs with black GOBOS/flags to cut down on the amount of light bouncing around.


Have fun with this and be sure to send me some of your pictures.

2 thoughts on “High Key/Pure White Tutorial

  1. Frank

    Excellent photos and thanks a million for the pullbacks/tutorials. This is a great help to actually see how someone else work. Get job man!

  2. Alec Himwich

    Hey Ivan,

    This is great and I really appreciate your taking time to put this together. Could you talk a little about the function of the Gobo and what the resulting images would have been like without them?

    It is very generous of you to share your (undoubtedly) hard earned knowledge.


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