Wrap the Key


What does it mean to “wrap the key”? 🧐


The definition is pretty self explanatory and the concept is straight forward. But to be honest it can mean a lot of different things. The method I’ll be describing refers to a situation where you have a secondary key source indoors motivated by the light through a window.


I find myself doing this pretty often because it’s rare for the subject’s face to be in exactly the right position near a window. They’re usually kind of side lit and we want to bring just a little more to the shadow side of their face. It’s a lot easier to get flattering light on the subject by bringing in another soft source that’s motivated from the same direction.


Two fixtures are pretty critical if you want hard light on the space but not on the talent. It feels very natural if the soft interior light that is motivated by the hard window light is also more dim and subtle. It’s really just there to lift the shadows on their face. Most of the time you’ll be using separate units for ambient fill or room tone.


There are plenty of other times when you may “wrap the key” without using a second unit, this is just one example. It applies to using a bounce outdoors as well. Don’t make a sun sandwich by putting the bounce opposite the sun and creating an unnaturally strong fill. (And I am usually a big fan of sandwiches) Find your far side with the bounce and wrap the key around the subject’s face. Much better!


For this image the 1200d played as our main source of light in the room (may have Blasted™️ through some opal, can’t remember) and we wrapped the key to lift the subject with a 300x off some ultrabounce. Used the LiteMat 2L with Snapgrid for a strong top light, and a Skypanel S60 with a medium Chimera soft box for fill.


Not too bad, eh?? If I can do it, so can you!


Production: Roc Noir

Director: Matt Rutherford

Producer: @lilbuddyguy

DP: @t_sessler

Key Grip: @meowryjeanes


Tyler Kaschke is a freelance gaffer with a grip truck based in Lafayette, Colorado serving Boulder, Denver, Golden, Fort Collins, Colorado Springs and the Rocky Mountain region at large.