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Low Key Wildlife Portraits – Some Of My Favourites


For four or five years now, in between more conventional photography, I’ve been working on a sideline project of “low key wildlife portraits“. It’s still an ongoing project, but I thought I’d share a selection of what I have so far, together in one blog post.

A couple of years ago, I wrote an introduction to the project, and outlined the process involved, so I’m not going to go into that again too much here. In brief terms, it’s a style of portraiture, inspired by conventional low light portrait photography and painting, achieved in my case through a combination of in-camera and Lightroom processing techniques. I’d love to be able to photograph animals like this in proper studio conditions, but for now I work only with natural light.

When I first started this I hadn’t really seen anyone doing the same, but as time has gone on I’ve seen more and more of them around. Seeing quite a few others trying it, with mixed success, does make me wonder if mine actually work or not either. I think the reality is that probably some of mine work well, and some don’t. It’s always hard putting experimental pictures out there, and on the whole people are too kind to tell you when they don’t work, so I have to rely on my own judgement. I also worry that even if mine do work, they’re tarred with the same brush as all the similar ones around which don’t. I guess the positive is that it makes me more critical of my choices, and more picky about only releasing the best ones online, to keep my standard as high as possible.

Over time, I’m trying to refine my choice of subjects, and I’m hoping to one day curate them into a definitive named collection in the future. I’m doing fewer of them as time goes on, but hopefully improving the standard of them too. I’ve questioned whether to stop doing them altogether, as there are loads of others out there doing the same now. But I like doing them and I think I’m improving at it too, so I’ll continue as long as that’s the case.


Low-key studio-style portrait of a horned cow
Low Key Cattle
A dark and moody photo of a moose in the black.
Low Key Moose Portrait
This is a resident pelican, at St James's Park, London, underexposed using dramatic low-key light.
Pelican On Black
Bengal Tiger yawning, in black and white.
Bengal Tiger - Yawn
Abstract view of a zebra, from above.
Low Key Zebra - Birds Eye View
Low-key side angle profile portrait of a Bengal tiger, on a black background.
Bengal Tiger - Profile
Red Deer On Black
Red Deer On Black
Side-on portrait on a bald eagle in studio-lit conditions.
Bald Eagle - Black, White, and Yellow
Low key portrait of a male lion
Low Key Lion Portrait

Update: Since I wrote this blog post, I’ve created a collection of low key portraits here on my website.



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