High Key Isn’t Just For Portraits

Scott Bourne's Work Truck Photo by Scott Bourne

High Key Isn’t Just For Portraits

Scott Bourne's Work Truck Photo by Scott Bourne

I was at the beach the other day, making some beauty shots of my “work truck” – my 2019 RAM Rebel. The images will be used in a social media campaign run by one of the companies that makes accessories for my truck.

They said (and I hate this when they say it) “we want something different” but then never go on to give any additional guidance. If you have been a working professional photographer for any length of time and you deal with clients, you’ve no doubt heard the same request.

When I get that request, one of my go-to approaches is to use techniques I learned from portrait photography even in non-portrait settings.

In this case I decided to make a high-key photo of my truck. It was mid-afternoon and the sun was still relatively high, but it was directional enough that I could control it. I positioned the truck in full sun and then I exposed to the right (over exposed) about 1.75 stops. This helped blow out the background and give the appearance that the truck was almost floating on a white backdrop.

If you look closely behind the truck you can just make out some sand and vegetation – which was kind of what I wanted to go for. Just a hint of other-worldly white bathing most of the picture. I also framed it with a lot of white space to accentuate the effect.

In post, I just bumped up the levels here and there to finish off the effect. And because I am photographing a black truck, I could get away with plenty of overexposure and still hold detail there.

The data for this shot is as follows:

Olympus OM-D E-M1 X
Olympus M.40-150 f/2.8 Pro Lens
ISO 250
Hand held

I used Luminar for all the post work (which wasn’t much.)


It pays to be thoughtful (as opposed to just always reactionary) when you’re making photos. Think about what you want to accomplish before pressing the shutter. Be deliberate in your approach.

Using techniques generally thought of as applicable to one genre and flipping those techniques in a genre where they aren’t always considered, is one sure-fire way to spice up your photography. Juxtaposition is a powerful tool and can be applied more broadly to all sorts of ideas like switching up cameras, lenses, angles, models, themes, etc.

I hope this helps.

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One Response

  1. Scott,

    This is an interesting post which demonstrates that sometimes a somewhat simple approach can be the best approach. I don’t own a truck, but after reading your posts and seeing your work with your “tricked out” photo truck, I am starting to get that itch!

    Perhaps there will be a special Scott Bourne edition of the truck just for photographers, film makers or other creatives. Don’t laugh, sometimes this is how big things happen!

    Nice job! Thanks for sharing your experiences!

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