Elizabeth Halford Photography {the blog} » photography in plain English

Shooting Backlit 101 {pt 2: examples}

Hey y’all! Let’s get down to business. What does ‘shooting backlit’ mean? In my own words,

‘Backlit’ means the main light in a scene is coming from behind your subject

When I was little and spending all my pocket money on cartridges for my Instamatic, my mom taught me my first lesson on photography. “Always take pictures with the sun behind you.” God Bless Mom for teaching me my first lesson on photography :) It was then that something in my head clicked and I realized that there are actually techniques and rules to make great pictures which set me on the course of discovery that took me to this point.

But the idea that the sun must always be behind the shooter causes lots of problems. Even in the golden hour, with a very low intensity sun, shooting with your subjects facing the sun can cause the following problems:

  • Squinting
  • Overly warm colour temperature (especially in the golden hour)
  • Blow-outs
  • Yucky shadows

There are lots of great ways to shoot outdoors on a sunny day like finding the shaded side of a building or shooting in open shade, but sometimes, you have no choice but to stay in the open sunlight. And who knows, you may just find that once you’ve grasped the techniques for shooting backlit, you’ll love it and make it a part of your repertoire or personal style.

The alternatives to shooting with the sun behind you are shooting with the sun to the side of the subject which, unless some fill light is introduced on the opposite side, will produce an overly shadowed side contrasted by a super-bright one. The other option is to shoot with the sun or main light-source (like a window) behind the subject instead. This is called backlighting.

One photographer who I admire for her ability to harness light is Brooke Snow. She even has videos showing her at work where you can see her shooting backlit.

So that’s is for today! Next time, I’ll be talking about camera settings for shooting backlit.

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  • http://margiewoodsbrown.com/ Margie Woods Brown

    Great Info as always Elizabeth!

  • Gretchen Boisseau

    Elizabeth (and anyone else wanting to check out some amazing Vancouver Island photography) – check out http://www.erinwallis.com/index.htm - she does a lot of shooting into the sun – beautiful work. Very inspirational photographer (I think) – follow her on her blog…
    I realize this sounds like an ad, but it’s not! I had Erin shoot our family last year and she really is amazing, and like you Elizabeth – is willing to share.