woman dark portrait with Kate Fine Art Abstract Backdrop Dark Brown Designed by Kate Image

How to Take Dark Photos: Pre-to-Post Portrait Guidance

The best way to make your image dramatic is by taking the shot using dark photography. It is a type of photography mostly preferred for producing dark photos with interesting looks that attract many viewers. However, to produce dark photos using this type of photography, there are some steps you will need to consider. Therefore, if you want to take dark shots, this article provides a solution for you. It focuses on the essential guidance that enables you to take dark photos using dark photography.

The steps provided here are easy to follow and provide you with all the information you will need when carrying out the exercise. For this reason, you will not have to be a professional photographer to understand the steps, they are free for everyone. But before going further, it is important to know the meaning of dark photography first.

What is dark photography?

woman dark portrait with Kate Fine Art Abstract Backdrop Dark Brown Designed by Kate Image

Kate Fine Art Abstract Backdrop Dark Brown Designed by Kate Image

Dark photography is a form of photography that involves the use of dark tones in producing dramatic images with high contrast. This type of photography is sometimes known as low-key photography and is mostly used to create shadows while revealing and concealing the details of the image. You can also use dark photography to attenuate your photo's depth to get silhouettes and graphic photographs. In addition, you can use this type of photography to transform the image of a person into mysterious images. This makes dark photography one of the most widely used types of photography today.

Camera Settings for Low Key Lighting

To take shots using dark photography, there are settings you will need to make into your camera which include settings or the use of black background, and the use of one source of light either artificial or natural light. You will also need a tripod stand or use a steady surface to hold your camera while taking the shots. However, the settings of the camera will also depend on the desire of the photographer, for this reason, you will be the controller of your camera when setting it.

It is always advisable to take your shots using low light which enables you to set your camera to a wider aperture of (F/2.8) to capture more light and make adjustments using the lights accordingly. When it comes to shutter speed adjustment, the best setting for low-key light photos is the high-speed shutter. Furthermore, to make your low-key photography produce photos, you will have to consider the elimination and illumination. To be more perfect you will have to consider where the light should fall, this will help you control the parts of the shot you want the light to fall.

maternity dark portrait with Kate Abstract Red Backdrop Fine Art Designed by Kate Image

Kate Abstract Red Backdrop Fine Art Designed by Kate Image

When you have the required equipment there are four tips you can apply to take shots using low-key photography. These tips include;

  • Rembrandt lighting

Rembrandt's light which a type of light that popularizes a painting style where light in form of a triangle falls over his subjects' darker side. This will result in the production of dark and lit pictures with interesting textures and shapes of different varieties.

  • Use a single light source

The sing light source works hand in hand with the Rembrandt lighting as they share some of their lighting technique. However, if you are using a single light source when taking shots, you will have to be careful while keeping your eye out t avoid underexposure and also ensure your camera is adjusted accordingly.

  • Try Black and white color

This is a popular color that works best when you are taking shots using dark photography. The black and white will accentuate naturally the contrast of light between the darkness and light which helps in making the underlit shots more compelling.

  • Editing

man silhouette dark portrait by Liam Arning on Unsplash

Photo by Liam Arning on Unsplash

The post-processing and editing of the photos are very essential when taking shots of dark images. In most cases, when taking shots of dark images, the risk of getting underexposed images and underlit subjects is always high, for this reason, proper software for editing photos can help you in tweaking the dark images into more clear, moody, and dramatic images.

How to Add a Dark Lighting?

There are many ways you can use to add dark lighting to your pictures, they include;

  • The lighting and background

The background of your image must be darker with a black or dark grey color. In addition, the clothing of your subject also needs to be dark even though it does not necessarily mean that they must be black clothes. The types of clothes you may avoid are those that have a pattern, such clothes will draw away the attention from the face of the subject. You can also create drama in your image by setting your lighting. Some of the most preferred lighting types you can use include Rembrandt lighting, side lighting, and loop lighting. When lighting your background, your shot will not need to be black and white, however, the shots in dark photography may have a black and white look due to the color being absent.

  • Lighting a dark portrait

man dark portrait photo

Photo by Dmitry Schemelev on Unsplash

You can light your low key by using artificial lighting or natural light. However, when using the natural light from the window, you will have to control it by closing the window curtains. Your room lights must also be off when using the natural light but you can as well take the shots in a photo studio. When taking the lighting, you will require a controllable and flattering light setup. You can use a strip box that will help take control of the lights.

  • Move your light around the side

When you move the light around to the side, the background will become darker making the images more dramatic.

  • Add a grid to the modifier

Adding a grid to your modifier will help you have more control over the light. The grid will be much more effective in restricting the source of light into a small and narrow beam. This will prevent light from spilling or bouncing around the subject.

  • Add more light to the subject's hair

When the subject starts having a dark effect in its background, the hair will tend to blend in due to its color and the dark effect. To avoid the blending, you can use fill light which will add light to the hair and hence separate it from the background Furthermore, a reflector can also be used even though it is less efficient as in the case when you use a second light. When adding the light, always ensure the light of the hair doesn't come close or hit your lens as this may result in a flare.

Post Editing Tips for Dark Photos

woman dark portrait with Kate 5x7ft Abstract Texture Dark Brown Color Hand Painted Canvas Backdrop

Kate 5x7ft Abstract Texture Dark Brown Color Hand Painted Canvas Backdrop

Post-editing your image is an essential factor you need not forget. It corrects most of the errors made in the shots during the shooting. Above all, it makes your dark moody photos more stunning and popping by adding some attractive features to them such as depth, texture, and contrast. For this reason, it's important to look at some of the tips you may consider when post-editing your images. These tips include;

  • Correct the exposure

Because some dark photos may be too dark to see, correcting the exposure of the image will make it clearer. This will also make it easy for you to observe some of the inner details of the images. It will also make it easier for you to further edit the shots when they are clearer.

  • Add contrast to the photo

woman dark portrait with Kate 5x7ft Abstract Texture Dark Brown Color Hand Painted Canvas Backdrop

Kate 5x7ft Abstract Texture Dark Brown Color Hand Painted Canvas Backdrop

The dark photos are always moody, therefore adding some contrast to the photos will make the shots have more light power. However, when adding contrast, ensure you are more careful to avoid blowing out your photos' details when the light is too much.

  • Add some texture to your image

In most cases, shooting using dark photography results in the production of lots of shadows. These shadows are always important in adding textures to the images. Adding textures is the best way to make your images more realistic. It will make your photos reveal the object more perfectly and hence attract many viewers.

  • Use your friend as a local adjustment

When taking shots using dark photography, you may encounter problems such as creating shots with shadows that are too dark, too much light, and also less exposure in parts of your photo. In as much as you will be attentive to limit these challenges, some of them will likely go off. For this reason, the best way to make the local adjustment when editing the photos is by inviting your friend. The friend will help you identify some of these challenges you might not have noticed when editing the images.


Dark photography is always known to be the best type of photography for producing dramatic images. It is easy to use and produces quality shots that attract many viewers due to their interesting looks. Therefore, following this write-up will make you stand a chance to take your favorite shots easily using this type of photography. For this reason, you will not have to be a professional photographer to use this guidance as they are straightforward to follow. What you need to consider most, is to keep practicing how to take shots using dark photography for you to gain more experience.

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