HIgh-Key LIghting refers to a high amount of 'keying'; The act of brightly lighting up the subject with what we can assume to be the full brunt of the sun. The secret to high key lighting is the background. Even if the subject is brightly lit, a dark background will create a sense of claustrophobia for the viewer. This is why the backgrounds in commercials are almost always brightly lit, to associate happiness and safety with their brand.
Low-Key Lighting is the exact opposite of high key lighting. While high key scenes are brightly lit and seldom have shadows, Low-Key lighting is meant to be dark and gloomy. The absence of light creates a feeling of uneasiness and drama. Even if the subject is brightly lit, a dark background creates low-key lighting. This style of lighting is often found in drama and thriller movies.
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