Backlighting in photography happens when the main light is behind your subject and facing the camera.
Backlight photography can be challenging, especially if you are used to using the auto
This article will show you how to use backlighting for flattering portraits and how to create a correct
Backlight Photography: Capturing Models in a White Dress in a Park with Sunlight Behind Them
What is Backlighting?
Backlighting means that you compose your pictures so that the primary light source is behind your subject. This can add a unique atmosphere to your photos while emphasising the subject. Backlight works as a dramatic effect that adds contrast and separates the subject from the background.
This technique is challenging to perform well. The light behind your subject has a strong influence on exposure. If you do not use the correct metering mode and settings, your subject will appear too dark and underexposed. With auto
In manual mode, you must choose appropriate
At times you will want your subject to appear darkened, creating a silhouette effect. When you want your subject to be well exposed, you will need to ensure your camera meter reads the light reflecting off your subject only.
How to Capture A Well Backlit Photograph?
Step 1: Shoot in RAW
Editing any RAW image file is better than a JPEG. When you are taking a JPEG picture, the camera processes it for you. This does not happen with RAW format. RAW gives you all the image data, retaining higher quality during editing.
This is especially important in the case of backlit photos, where you will adjust the
Step 2: Use Manual Mode
You can also use your camera’s monitor to determine the
By paying careful attention to the light reflecting off a backlit subject, you can make
You can try taking photos with the auto mode if you are unsure about using the spot meter or manual mode. When you have taken a photo of your backlit subject, check your LCD screen to see how it looks.
If it is too dark, use the exposure compensation and dial in plus one or two compensation. Take another photo and review. Keep tweaking the compensation until you are happy with the way your subject looks. This method will be slower to use because of the need to take several photos and check each before making
Initially, you are better off with an underexposed photo. Overexposure makes the image lose detail that will be harder to bring back than in the case of underexposure.
Step 3: Select Spot Metering
Most beginner photographers have their camera’s metering mode set to auto. I prefer to set my camera’s
It will most likely set the metering based on the focus point. Different cameras might have a different default setting for light metering. Make sure you read your camera’s manual beforehand.
If you take a spot meter reading from the wrong place in your photo, your
You can make use of the spot meter in any lighting situation, not only for backlighting. I use it often, so I have programmed one of my camera’s function buttons to activate the spot meter when I press it.
Step 4: Compose a Conscious Image
Using the sun as a light source requires that you are in a position to take your photos at the right time of the day. If you cannot move the light source (such as the sun), you may need to consider returning at a different time of day.
If you are somewhere in the morning and the light is not right, consider how it may look in the evening. You might be able to produce a photo with far more interesting backlighting.
When shooting outdoors, use a lens hood and position yourself to minimise unwanted lens flare. Move around the scene and try to block the sun out with another object, such as a house or the leaves of a tree. Hiding the light source behind the subject can work when your subject is large and close enough to your camera. When the light source is higher, you may still get some flare. If you do not want this, You can shade the front of the lens with your left hand.
The higher your subject the light source is, the less dramatic the backlighting effect will be.
Step 5: Experiment With Accessories
Adding reflected light onto a subject will help bring balance. You can use a large reflector to expose the subject’s face to be like the
Creative Backlight Photography Techniques
Backlighting most often results in a composition that is not evenly exposed. If you want that a nice bell-shaped histogram, give it up now. It’s not going to happen in backlit photos. But this is not a bad thing. In fact, forgetting about technical perfection will let you capture some interesting effects using backlight.
Sometimes you will want to expose your photo so the background is exposed correctly and your subject is underexposed. You can create silhouettes like this.
If you have your camera set to evaluative metering, the camera will take the subject into account and meter the light accordingly. This may cause your background to be overexposed. It might vary on how much of the frame your subject takes up.
Set the metering mode to spot metering. This will give the background more accurate
When photographing directly towards the sun when it is at a low angle, your
Use Translucent Subjects
Translucent subjects look fabulous when they are backlit. Some light passes through smoke, water spray, leaves, flags, and other such things. This enhances them with a somewhat surreal luminosity.
Look for these types of objects and compose them against a dark background to make them pop.
Create Lens Flare
Backlighting in photography can produce many varied styles of pictures.
To create an aesthetic lens flare, start moving around your subject. Watch how your camera position changes the way the light looks as it falls on your subject.
When using backlighting in a studio and creating a lens flare, you can reposition the light source. Place it slightly behind and above your subject. This way, when your camera is pointing at the model, you will get a bit of lens flare coming from above. You can change the strength of this flare by adjusting the strength of the light. You can also cut some of the light out from the frame by changing the composition.
Use Backlighting for Street Photos
Strong contrast in backlit photos can create drama. When you add another light source or reflector as a fill light, it brings balance to your
When doing street photography, look for situations where backlit subjects have something reflecting light onto their faces. Without any reflection back into the subject’s face, their skin tone would be too dark.
Controlling the light using a reflector can help you get better exposures when making portraits using an outdoor studio.
Post-Processing Backlit Photos
Backlit photos often benefit from at least a little tweaking in post. JPEG files will not stand up to so much manipulation, so don’t forget to shoot in RAW.
Typically with photos with high contrast, the camera will not render details in the lightest and darkest areas. It is always better to underexpose a shot. Your image will not suffer from as much information loss as it would when overexposing.
Post-processing backlit photos to enhance contrast will help make more interesting images.
Backlighting can be tricky. The more you experiment, the more you will understand how each situation, subject, and light source behaves differently. With a bit of practice, you will be able to utilise backlight in a way that adds a great atmosphere to your photos.
We hope that our article has helped you with using backlighting more effectively!
Are you looking for more creative photography tips? Check out our Creative Photography Cookbook for just those!