High-key lighting is a classic look for portraits or product photography that minimizes shadows and produces a bright, vibrant and upbeat aesthetic. Although typically shot in the studio with lots of high-powered lights, it's possible to produce a similar look at home with some fairly basic kit.

We'll talk you through how we captured these 'high-key' maternity portraits in the garden and give you some advice on camera settings and editing tricks so you can shoot them too.

The setup: What you'll need

  • A camera (preferably one that shoots Raw)
  • A large white sheet
  • Some kind of frame or support for the sheet

Unless you have at least three flashguns or studio flash heads to light both the background and subject at the same time, it's going to be very difficult to produce a high-key effect indoors. If you shoot out in the backyard on a bright and still day however, it's possible to achieve a similar look without any flash at all, or just a single flash for a touch of fill-in and a catch-light in the eyes.

You'll need a bright day, so there's enough light, but avoid shooting in direct sunlight because there will be too much contrast and too many shadows for a realistic high-key effect. A shady spot where the natural light falling on your subject and background will remain balanced, even if the sun does come out, is an ideal place so you can keep shooting regardless of what the sun does. 

We used a background stand to hang our white sheet but you could use a clothesline or length of string instead. Make sure you set up in a shaded area to avoid any direct sunlight.

As it was a partly sunny day for our shoot we set up in the corner of the garden under a large conifer tree to diffuse the sunlight. For the background we used a couple of white sheets attached to a portable background stand with some duct tape and a couple of big stones from the rockery to stop them blowing around (it was windier than we'd have liked!).

You can pick up a portable background stand pretty cheaply like this one, but simply hanging your sheet from a clothesline or line of string across the yard will suffice.