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  1. (of a photograph) having chiefly light tones, usually with little tonal contrast (distinguished from low-key).

Origin of high-key

First recorded in 1915–20

high key

noun Movies.
  1. a style of lighting that is bright, even, and produces little contrast between light and dark areas of the scene.

Origin of high key

First recorded in 1915–20
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018
British Dictionary definitions for high-key


  1. (of a photograph, painting, etc) having a predominance of light grey tones or light coloursCompare low-key (def. 3)
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012