Essence of Photography: Backlight

How can you create bright beautiful photos by shooting into the light.

August 30, 2022

When you first start taking photos, you may be inclined to always try to keep the sun at your back, shining on your subject.

While this is a good strategy for most types of images, you are missing out on a whole class of photos that can be created by shooting directly into the light.

This is called backlight, or in French they say "contre-jour" (against the day).

Photographing into the light provides the possibility to get some very beautiful and atmospheric images.

If you have learned about silhouette photography, you may have practiced this technique already. A silhouette is an extreme example of exposing the camera for the light behind the subject, which makes the subject itself appear like a dark cutout shape.

But with the right exposure settings, you can get a mix of the background light and the subject which in the right light can create a distinctive look.

Notice that bit of green light in the bottom of the image above? That is called lens flare. Sometimes it compliments the look of the image but sometimes it is not desirable.

There are a few ways to limit lens flare like using a hood on your lens (usually lenses come with a hood attachment), or even using your hand to cup the lens just above where your hand is visible. You can also try to edit or crop out the flare in an app but it is still good to learn to create images in the camera the way you want them to be.

If you find that you are not getting enough light on the front of your subject (since the light is behind them), you can use a reflective surface to bounce light back on their faces. Or you can even use a flash or studio light as well. The image above used a fold-out silver reflector which was bought inexpensively online.

Photographing in the light can also create long shadows towards the photographer / viewer.

These backlight effects work equally well in black and white and color.

Here are a few more examples of backlight photography for ideas and inspiration.

Essence of Photography is a series of tips, tutorials, and visual inspiration on a variety of photography skills and techniques.

You can practice these skills and more by purchasing a deck of Photo Cards from Zoom In Reach Out, a non-profit with a mission of teaching to see the world from a different perspective.

All photos in this article were posted to the Aminus3 Photography Community and are copyrighted by their respective photographers.

Click on any photo to see a larger version or to leave a comment for the photographer.

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TOPICS: essence of photography

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