Last week I received this same photography question from three different people so I thought it would be a great time to give a few pointers on the subject of backlighting. With spring and summer right around the corner here in MA, the backlighting opportunities are going to be abundant in outdoor photography.
Backlighting is magical. It's that glow that surrounds your subject and makes you look at the photo for a few seconds longer. When I look at a photo that is backlit, it makes me relax. I know that sounds strange, but it does.
Unless you've tried backlighting, it may seem like a pretty easy process. Place your subject with the sun or glow of light in the background and shoot away. It actually is that simple...with a few other minor adjustments.
1. Shoot During The Golden Hour
The Golden Hour occurs just as the sun is rising or just as the sun is beginning to set. My favorite time to start shooting is about an hour before sunset. Some of my favorite photos are taken when you might think it's much too dark. You don't want that strong sun that's high in the sky at noon. An hour before sunset allows the sun's weaker rays to still give that gorgeous glow while your camera is able to balance the exposure of the sun and skin tones.
2. Put Your Subject Between You And The Sun
From where you are standing, you should see your subject with the sun right behind them. First, I place my subject with the most pleasing background as seen through my camera, and then, I MOVE MYSELF to get that glow behind them from the sun.
3. Shoot As Wide Open As Possible
What does that mean? If your camera lens goes to 1.4, try to shoot at about 2.0 or wider. Focus on the eyes. It really helps acheive the overall glow and softness of the rest of your image that you want when backlighting. Last week's Teach Me Tuesday has some helpful tips on this. If you're finding it difficult to focus on your subject due to the lighting, use a lens hood and/or block the sun from hitting your lens with your hand and then focus.
4. Expose For The Skin Of Your Subject
Ignore everything else your camera is telling you, and manually expose for the skin of your subject. Sometimes, I even overexpose the skin by 1/2 stop, but not much more than that. Your background might seem overexposed, but if you expose for the background, your subject will be much too dark.
5. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!
As with everything in photography, your best bet is to practice as often as you can! If it's Golden Hour, and you don't have a person to photography, get a doll, an apple, or even your dog, and just go for it!
If you have any questions regarding backlighting, or if you want me to answer any other questions on Teach Me Tuesday, feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll do my best to answer all questions!