Often called “Low-Key” lighting, this technique features a dark background. The objective is not to simply lower the lighting level; you still need enough light to render the subjects well in the exposure. In fact, with dark-haired subjects, you may need as my lights as the High Key method. These lights are often pointed back toward the camera to provide some illumination on the subjects’ hair, for separation from the background.
In this image, we have mother and daughters, all dressed in black, against a black background. A key light to camera right provides the front illumination of the right side. A fill light to camera left lightens the shadows. And two lights behind them fitted with grids, provide the rim or hair lighting.
You can see a nice shine in the girls’ hair from the supplemental lighting, as well as clearly lit faces. Low-key images are often subdued and elegant in appearance, contrasted with the higher-energy appearance of high-key imagery. These portraits do very well in large print format, in canvas or traditional print form.