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See also: lowkey and low key


A low-key photograph of a cat.


From low +‎ key.


low-key (comparative more low-key, superlative most low-key)

  1. Restrained, subtle, not trying to attract attention.
    • She deserves an Oscar for her low-key performance in that movie.
    • 2018 November 14, Phil McNulty, “England 0-0 Brazil”, in BBC News[1]:
      From the Samba band and colourfully-clad dancers that made a lap of Wembley before kick-off - even prompting some neat moves from one or two Brazilian journalists - to the roars of delight every time Neymar got on the ball, it was still a night that contained entertainment despite the increasingly low-key fare on the pitch.
  2. (photography) Dark, with little or no fill light and high lighting ratio.

Usage notes[edit]

While both low-key and high-key are commonly used in photography, high-key is not used in everyday usage. The term mid-key also exists in photography, but is much rarer.


Coordinate terms[edit]