Photography Project: High-Key Flowers


This was week 1 of another year-long endeavor, working through David duChemin’s Visual Toolkit one chapter at a time.  The assignment this week was to optimize exposure, aiming for pushing it to the high-end of the histogram.  So I took one of my favorite subjects (besides Peter), a piece of foam core, a flash, and my camera and set off to create chaos in the family room.

Goal:  Achieve a high-key look, with a pure white background, without blowing out the highlights.


  • 100 mm macro lens
  • Large piece of white foam core
  • Fresh flowers
  • Speedlight
  • Diffusion dome
  • Tripod


  • Prop the foam core against a chair back
  • Place the flower in small short glass
  • Shoot slightly down on the flower
  • Settings:  ISO = 100, Aperture = 2.8, Shutter speed = 1/8 (note:  I varied this with each shot to try to push the histogram to the edge
  • Flash:  angled slightly above the flower to hit the upper part of the foam core


  • All processing was done in LightRoom
  • Increased the Exposure on images that did not have a pure white background
  • Increased the Clarity
  • Added Vibrance

I have to admit, this assignment helped me realize how lazy I’ve become about “just handling it in post”.  For the images that I really worked at pushing to the edge of the histogram in camera, I had to do very little processing.  For the couple where I didn’t try to achieve “white” on the background it took a few extra steps.

1310_MFA_Flowers_013 1310_MFA_Flowers_008 1310_MFA_Flowers_002 1310_MFA_Flowers_001

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