High Key vs Low Key Headshots

Headshot Pros
3 min readAug 18, 2020


Which approach is most advantageous for your photos? When it comes to studio portrait photography in general, headshots are often done in either a “high key” or “low key” lighting style. Here’s an example and I’ve done both lighting styles. So let’s look at this, what it means and its implications for your own photoshoot, so you can make an informed portrait decision when it comes time for you to book professional photography.

Dallas Best Professional Studio headshot photographer portrait photography
Your business headshots in Dallas can choose either High Key or Low Key lighting style.

What does it mean?

The two above examples, headshots from my own Dallas photography studio, perfectly illustrate this. High Key, means “well-lit” …sortof. It means a brighter ambient light environment in which the photo is taken. And of course “low key” means the photo environment has low ambient light. In both cases, the face itself is well-exposed. So it does not mean a bright face vs a dark face. And high-key vs low-key does not mean simply the backdrop is lighter/darker either.

What are the implications of high key vs low key?

When it comes to YOUR headshot, these two styles of portraits have a different FEEL to them. And this has implications for how your business headshot is seen (and felt) by your audience (your business peers, and your prospects).

A low-key type headshot/portrait has a more “serious” feel to it. As you can see on the right, when the client requested that “low key” lighting style, the subject is not smiling nearly as much. And while both faces are nicely lit, the low-key style photo has some of the side of the face. So the photo lighting style and the expression style are more of a serious match.

On the other hands, the high-key headshot/portrait on the left has more light overall in the photo, and also a corresponding “brighter” smile.

Do you want to be seen as more serious or more welcoming?

As a leading Dallas headshot and portrait photographer, I find the high-key style to be more contemporary. A darker environment in your photo is simply not as welcoming. Having your face more in the shadows is more mysterious, and that is great if you are an author or murder mysteries, but if you are a business executive or professional, you probably want people to feel they can trust you, and a face that is not in any shadow — a face where what you see is what you get — has that “I have nothing to hide” quality to it.

This is why I advocate for the high-key style of portraits and headshots for most all purposes these days.

If you are emphasizing your serious side, let’s say you are a detective or a defense attorney, then perhaps the low-key approach is advantageous.

In Conclusion — my photos are designed to boost your image in a strategic way

As with everything I do, I am helping you manage your IMAGE to the public and to your prospects, and your image is something value potent — the right image can help open amazing doors of opportunity in your life and career, and the wrong image will only waste time and money and lead to frustration.

So let’s talk — let’s talk about why you’re getting your headshot taken and what purpose you want your portrait to serve. This will inform us as to how to use photography to help get you there! I will help guide you into, not just a great-looking photo of you, but one that is truly an asset to help promote your personal, business, and career goals.

www.DallasBusinessHeadsthos.com studio booking line call 1–877–858–0071.



Headshot Pros

Professional Headshot Photographer in Dallas for business headshots, corporate portraits, Actor and Model headshots as well as commercial photography.