How to simulate High-Key Lighting in Lightroom Mobile

High-Key Lighting is a popular style of photography that involves creating bright, light-filled images with bright colors, few shadows, and soft light by reducing the light ratio in a photo. You can find photos with high-key lighting in all photography genres – from bright portraits to clean product shots to futuristic-looking architecture.

In this blog post, I’ll focus on architecture, and you’ll learn how to edit a photo to simulate High-Key Lighting on iPhone using Lightroom Mobile.

Before we get started, here are three more High-Key sample photos edited in the same way as described in this tutorial.

How to take a photo for High-Key editing

If you’d plan a High-Key lighted portrait photo, you’d need a particular setup starting with a bright background and a dedicated light design.

But as this blog post is about High-Key architecture photography and editing, I have good news: You don’t need any special equipment or a camera app. Please take a photo and make sure it’s well exposed without any dark and too bright (burnt) areas.

How to turn a photo into a High-Key lighted photo using Lightroom Mobile

Though I’ll show you how to do a High-Key image edit in Adobe Lightroom Mobile, you can follow the procedure with almost any other editing software that offers similar editing features.

Here’s the unedited photo of the famous library in Stuttgart.

As you can see, the photo is a bit dark, and the white interior of the library is more blueish than white. But we’ll fix that in a minute – and no, we don’t just turn up the exposure.

Step 1: Increase whites

As the first step, please go to the light editing group and increase the whites. As you can see, I’ve increased the whites quite a bit to +85. Please experiment with the correct value for your photo. Ensure you don’t burn (eliminate) all the details by increasing the white value too much.

Increasing the whites brings us one step closer to our final High-Key image. But we still have a few harsh shadows that we want to brighten.

Step 2: Increase blacks

By increasing the blacks, we make the harsh shadows a bit softer. Again, I’ve turned up the black quite a bit to +54. Please experiment to find the perfect value for your photo.

Step 3: Lift shadows

We’re still in the light editing group. As the next step to turn this image into a High-Key photo, we lift the shadows by moving the shadows slider to the right. Again, I cranked it up to brighten the shadows and make them even softer.

Step 4: The Secret Sauce: Add haze & reduce clarity

Now switch to the effects editing group. Here we’ll add the secret sauce for awesome High-Key images: The dehaze slider. Usually, you’d use the dehaze slider to remove fog and haze. But for a High-Key photo, we’ll do precisely the opposite: We add haze to make the shot even brighter and add a touch of soft light.

Move the dehaze slider to the left to create a dreamy High-Key image. I wanted to add a slight haze and soft light, so a value of -24 is perfectly alright for this photo.

Another adjustment worth trying for a High-Key edit is the clarity adjustment. Move it slightly to the right to reduce clarity and add more softness to the entire scene.

Step 5: Desaturate other colors

As you can see from the previous steps, the library is illuminated with an orangish light. Let’s get rid of that orange tone and turn it into white. Please switch to the color adjustment group and tap color mix.

To eliminate the orange light, desaturate the orange tones by tapping orange and moving the saturation slider to the left.

Step 6: Use Masks to fix specific areas

As the last step, use masks to fix specific areas of your photo. For example, the roof in the picture is still a bit too dark. I want to brighten it. So I pulled a linear gradient mask from the top and increased the exposure for the masked area.

Final High-Key image

And here is the final photo simulating High-Key Lighting in its full glory – with some perspective correction applied.

Please let me know if you found this tutorial helpful in the comments.

Adobe Lightroom is just one of my favorite photo editing apps on iPhone. To read about the other apps I rely on, please head to the blog post about the recommended iPhone photo editing software I use.

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