34 : Backlighting


Backlighting Bliss

Backlighting is a style of photography in which your subject is located is between you and a strong light source (usually the sun). Backlighting works best when the sun is near the horizon (early in the morning or late in the afternoon). It creates a glowing rim of light around your subjects that is especially pleasing when shooting toward a darker background. 


People are often hesitant to shoot with the sun behind their subjects because they’re afraid they will be too dark. When your camera is set to spot metering, however, it should know to only meter the light on the subject it’s focused on, so dark subjects aren’t a problem!

When shooting toward the sun, use a lens hood to stop extra light from reaching the camera sensor and blowing out your shot or causing lens flare. If you do not have a lens hood, rest your hand or a piece of rigid cardboard on top of your lens extending out a few inches. If you are shooting in Auto mode, this will help the camera sensor to expose the shot correctly.

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Seek out wide open spaces where the sun is not obstructed. Some easy options are big fields, school playgrounds, parking lots, and sidewalks/streets that run east/west.


When shooting backlit images indoors, the same rules apply. Make sure that the strongest light source is behind your subject, set your camera to spot metering, and shoot! Take your time to play with your position and angle until you find your "sweet spot".

Creative Prompts

  1. Experiment with the angle of the camera in relation to the sun. You may need to have the sun slightly to the right or left of your subject. If the camera shines directly toward you it may result in strong lens flare.
  2. The background of your image is important when back lighting. Try not to have a clear sky as your background, because it will probably be too light.
  3. Have your subjects play with toys that catch the sun. Bubbles, water and wildflowers are all fun things to incorporate into images with children!
  4. When shooting indoors, windows are typically a great place to start. Experiment with direct v. indirect light to see what you prefer.

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