Create a greater sense of depth and add a creative look to your images
What is backlighting in photography?
Backlit photography is just what it sounds like, lighting your subject from behind or shooting directly into your light source. This light source can be artificial lights or the sun.
When should I use backlighting?
By shooting directly into the light or having a light source behind your subject you can create drama, mood, mystery and also a fine art look to your images. It can also create a greater sense of depth and add a creative look to your images.
How to shoot photos with backlighting
There are a few ways to photograph backlit images. You can shoot into the sun either early or late using the low, softer light to create silhouettes or a soft glow around or behind your subject. Manual focus will help you get a clearer image as many times the camera will struggle to choose what to focus on with the light coming into the lens.
If you are photographing portraits you’ll want to over expose by 1 or 2 stops. To shoot silhouettes you can get great results by under exposing 1 or 2 stops. If you are shooting landscapes into the sun it’s a good idea to use an HDR technique in order to get more details in both the highlights and the shadows. To get a more fine art look you can underexpose by a couple of stops to get that dark and moody feeling depending on your subject.
How to properly expose a backlit subject
Using a fixed ISO and aperture allows you to change the shutter speed to get the effects you want and to control the amount of light you’re letting in. Experiment with different shutter speeds to see what happens, capture several images and pay attention to how it effects the highlights and shadows.
Photo BootCamp Magazine
On the following pages, take a look at how BootCamp members have learned to use backlighting in their own images that they have shared with us.
And be sure to check out how you can join BootCamp at the end of the magazine!
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Alternatively if you have a slower connection you can view this magazine Here on ISSUU.
Below is a small sample of what’s in this magazine…
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Inside BootCamp Magazine
Let’s take a look at this month’s magazine. Our featured artist this month is Tamar Aharony, from the United States.
Tamar’s featured image is from a trip last fall to the Adirondacks. It is her favorite image from that location because it was the first time she enjoyed creating an abstract image.
Comment: Rachel Gilmour – “What a tranquil image, Tamar! Lovely colors. In line with other comments, using the ‘gradient filter’ tool would probably give that sky a boost. To ‘nitpick’ I find the foreground vegetation distracting. Not sure how you could have avoided it as you composed your shot. Difficult sometimes and also we often don’t notice it when we’re taking the shot. I do like how you centered the water line. Well done.”
This month’s magazine cover image was photographed by Eugene Brannan from the United States. A sunset over the water is always a great way to inspire at the end of the day. Include a flock of seagulls to increase interest and spike the creative juices and the evening gets better. This photo was taken close to his work locations and he always challenges himself when he is here to capture something different. Situated on the west coast of Florida, this small peninsula juts out from the coast to provide a great location to watch the sunset across the Gulf of Mexico. The seagulls were foraging along the waters edge as the sun set. Walking towards them slowly he photographed the scene as they took flight with the setting sun behind them, creating the silhouettes, and filling the frame, all the while leaving a glow from the sun backlighting their wings.
Comment: Derryl Friesen – “Eugene, I really like the colors and wild activity in this shot. I usually try to shoot flying birds at 1/1600sec. I am impressed with the stopping of motion at 1/800 sec. So cool all the golden hues glowing through the feathers. Well done!”
Let’s take a look at how BootCamp members have learned to use backlighting in their own images they have shared with us.
First we have Derryl Friesen from Thailand. It has been a few months since Derryl has been active at Boot Camp. He praising God his dear wife is still with they have been informed that the breast cancer has been removed with no need for chemo or radiation. They plan to head back to Thailand on May 9th after spending time in Canada. It has been a season of great encouragement and joy as they have experienced the love and compassion of the genuine global family of God. Canada is an awesome place to spend a fall and winter! Here are some grazing bison close to their local church in Alberta.
Comment: Denis O’Byrne – “Hi Derryl. delighted to see you back and the positive outcome for your wife and friend. The above photo is lovely and I like the way the light plays on the bison. I wish you both continued good health and safe travels.”
Next we have Ruth Lopez from the USA. Over the Fourth of July holiday last year she was in Maui, Hawaii. Ruth took her camera and tripod to the beach to shoot the sunset and the fireworks over the Maalaea Bay. The big fireworks never materialized and she guessed she was at the wrong location and was unable to see them from where she was. However, on the way back Ruth passed a family with young children in the park. The mother was showing the girl how to carefully hold a sparkler while a little boy joyfully swung his around in the air. The little girl stood there mesmerized. The scene reminded her of the wonder she felt the first time she held a sparkler in her hand.
Comment: Nick Ellis – “Great pic. I love the low light on the mum’s dress and the silhouette of the little girl is superb. This pic oozes the atmosphere. Magic! I wouldn’t change anything in this. Though, just to get really picky…there are a couple of light spots on the girl’s dress which I’d probably clone out. ;-]”
Next we have Bruce Patterson from the United States. This is one of his neighbor’s flowers. Bruce was looking straight up from below the flower to create this image with the sun lighting up the flowers.
Comment: Christian Piron – “Bruce, nice picture. Nice contrast between the flower and the sky. Personally I would give more light in the shadows (leaves and flowers) with Lightroom as they are a bit dark and hiding details. Good job.”
Then we have Cindi Kisiel-Smith from the USA. She has been dealing with what life is tossing her way so she’s posting this image from last spring. This shot is one of the Japanese maples in her yard during an early morning.
Comment: Amber Pallas-Brunt – “I love the contrasting colors and the light! I’d crop out the bottom right corner as it is distracting from the beautiful light coming through the red buds. Well done!”
Last but not least, this image was taken by Erez Shilat from Israel. He used two flashes, one for the back light and another for fill. This is a composite of a few images since he could not easily “hold the sun” and create the splashes while also photographing the shot. Erez enhanced the colors and modified the foreground lighting a bit in Photoshop to get the final image.
Comment: Sig Rannem – “Erez, great job putting this all together for an attractive image, as well as having the imagination to conceive of this composition. Well done!”
We have shown you some awesome backlit images from a few of our members. You can also achieve similar results and create amazing images by using back lighting as part of your photography routine. If you are not yet a member of this awesome family now is the best time to be one. You can check out the complete BootCamp Magazine and see for yourself!
- Backlighting in photography is just what it sounds like, placing the light behind your subject.
- You can use backlighting to create a fine art look or to add depth and creativity to your image.
- Shooting directly into your light source, whether it’s the sun or an artificial light will create the backlit look.
- Using a fixed ISO and aperture allows you to change the shutter speed to get the effects you want.
Did you enjoy this article? Check out these related articles, too:
- Using the Golden Spiral and the Golden Triangle to Create Better Photographs
Learning how to use the Golden Spiral and Golden Triangle Compositions
- Why We Break The Rules
Learn how to break composition rules in photography.
- Going Deep To Create Meaningful Photos
Getting to know your subject better will help you create more powerful images.
Do This Now
Please leave me a comment below – I’d love to know what you think. Brent