Photography: Learn how to shoot into the light to add magic to your images.

What does shooting into the light mean?

Shoot your subject with the main light source directly behind them. Have your subject backlit (I’ve written about this before in this article…Backlighting As A Creative Tool In Photography)

Why shoot into the light?

Shooting into the light offers so much more drama, mood and warmth to your images. It can add a little mystery to your images and allows you to experiment and play with the more fine art style of images.

It teaches us all about light and composition. About being in the moment and feeling free and creative.

Shooting impala into the dawn light

On my recent BootCamp Safari to Botswana, Africa I noticed this beautiful dawn light and needed to find an interesting foreground subject. We got lucky with this group of impala who were grazing in that long grass. This image tells a uniquely African story and I think shooting into the light adds more drama and mood to this scene – what do you think?
SETTINGS: Shutter priority mode 1/500sec using a 600mm lens. Exposure set to -2/3 stop. Aperture and ISO in auto, ISO 160.

Tips for capturing captivating images.

To make this challenge even more fun I asked my BootCamp Members to only us a fixed focal length lens. Why did I do this? By restricting the focal length it allows us to focus our attention on our subject, composition and the light. It allows us to be more creative.

  • Use low light, try early morning or late afternoon
  • Try manually focusing on your subject
  • Move your camera, having your subject move in front of the sun
  • Don’t forget to check what’s in your frame, remove distracting unwanted elements and add supporting elements.
  • Be careful of looking into the sun, don’t hurt your eyes

Shooting Portraits?

Overexpose your image by 1-2 stops make sure the face is well lit. Focus on the eye and position your model to get that beautiful backlight.

Shooting Landscapes and Silhouettes?

Try underexposing for beautiful silhouettes with drama and mystery, don’t forget to add supporting elements, like trees or grasses. Move yourself and your camera to get the best composition possible. Try getting down low with a wider angle.

Subjects that are great to shoot into the light

Try photographing fireworks, candles or fireplaces. Why not the night sky, let the stars be your light.

Remember you want your main subject to attract the eye, not all the distracting elements surrounding it.

Slow down and enjoy the creative process.

Photo BootCamp Magazine

Let’s have a look at what our BootCamp members have created for this month’s shooting into the light challenge.

And be sure to check out how you can join BootCamp at the end of the magazine!

Below is a small sample of what’s in this magazine…

Creating Triptych

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Inside BootCamp Magazine

Featured Artist

Let’s take a look at this month’s magazine. Here is our featured artist of the month, Kent Hall, from the United States.

He used these settings: 4.0sec at f/22, ISO 100, 35mm because he wanted to capture some movement/texture in the water without ‘freezing’ the water. It was a beautiful morning and as the sun came over the horizon it lit up the landscape so beautifully – made me feel very lucky to be there.

Comment: Dave Koh“Wow! Such a wonderful landscape. Love the composition and the timely sunrise with the sunburst. Well done, Kent. Just a little adjustment on the sea-line to straighten will be perfect.”

Creating Triptych

Cover Image

This month’s featured magazine cover image is from Paul Fuller, from Australia.

A Tall Ship. Paul always enjoy going down to Sydney Harbour early in the morning, every sunrise is different, he wanted to also capture the Old Tall Ship with the Modern-day Opera House in the background.

Creating Triptych

Comment: Kerri Clarke“Love this, Paul! I’m an old salty, been on cruising yachts for years… really love the light you’ve captured on the hull and the detail on the mast and spreaders. I like the separation between the boat and the Opera house. Interesting take on both subjects. Well done.”

Active Members

Let’s take a look at some of awesome into the light images our BootCamp members have created.

We’ll start with Kerrie Clarke from Australia. She was so pleased to find the last of the remaining deciduous leaves still attached in her local park because she thought she’d missed them! This image was shot on the same morning as her last post. Kerrie really loved the light shining through those trees! She originally included a starburst, but it was pretty ordinary, so she cropped it and the bright sky out. Same fixed focal length as the first post.

Comment: Dave Koh“Very nice sunlight coming through enlightening those beautiful leaves in the woods. I can spend time there taking many different shots of the tree trunks, leaves, branches, etc with such nice lighting. Well done Kerrie.”

long exposure

Next, we have Dave Koh from Singapore. He went to the marina to seek inspiration for this month’s challenge. While the sunset wasn’t spectacular today, he chose this image for its calmness and serenity.

Creating Triptych

Comment: Denis O’Byrne“Hi Dave. Yes, I get the sense of calmness and serenity from this shot. Well done. Just wonder if would it have been better in Landscape and cropped as needed.”

Eugene Brannan from the United States is next. He had previously posted a photo of a dragonfly in flight. He continued the theme with this submission of a dragonfly, although not in flight. He added a sunburst as well as silhouetting the dragonfly in the golden setting sun. He was able to get closer to my subject this time, being less than 3 feet away from his subject. He did utilize a single focal length lens, his 90mm macro lens. The camera was handheld because of the moving stalk of grass that the dragonfly was perched on. He utilized a small aperture of f/22 to get the sunburst. The camera was on Manual mode with the ISO on Auto.

Comment: Craig Mattner“I love this composition. The main subject is tack sharp with the fine detail of the wings beautifully superimposed against a plain background. I love how the background vegetation acts as framing for the stick on which the dragonfly has landed.”

Then we have Leila Gonzalez Sullivan from the United States. More or less at 2 pm in the afternoon, so the sunlight is very strong. No starburst but the flag became almost transparent and there was plenty of wind off the ocean.

Comment: Ron du Bois“The translucency is a really pleasing effect Leila and capturing the waveform of the furls in the flag is a very nice extra touch.”

And next we have Ron du Bois from Great Britain. It’s been a difficult year so far but he feels that he is finally emerging from a cocoon. “It’s so good to rejoin you guys” – it wasn’t possible until now – and engage in some photographic challenges. His first effort is his 20-month-old grandson with the sun streaming in through the patio doors. Not totally into the light but he hoped sufficiently towards it to qualify! Some Lightroom editing especially a little cropping, and some adjustments of B&W and shadows to enhance the image. He chose B&W because he thought it conveyed his personality more graphically.

Comment: Romy Villanueva“Nice portrait shot and it’s great that you decided to post it in Black & White. Nice job, Ron, and welcome back!”

And last, we have Lynton Stacey from Australia. An orange lacewing butterfly taken at the Butterfly House at Coffs Harbour NSW. The sun is coming through the glass roof backlighting the butterfly resting on a flower. In post-processing, He darkened the background to emphasize the subject.

Comment: Romy Villanueva“Hi Lynton, after reading your response about re-editing the original image I decided to wait for this simplified version. It was worth the wait. This image is not only simpler with no distractions but much stronger and the butterfly was more enhanced. Very well done!”

Summary

  • Use low light, try early morning or late afternoon
  • Try manually focusing on your subject
  • As you are shooting into the light you will need to overexpose a stop or two, especially with portraits
  • Perhaps you would prefer silhouettes, then under-expose your image by 1-2 stops, great for landscapes
  • Move your camera, having your subject move in front of the sun
  • Don’t forget to check what’s in your frame, remove distracting unwanted elements and add supporting elements.
  • Be careful of looking into the sun, don’t hurt your eyes
  • Try photographing fireworks, candles or fireplaces. Why not the night sky, let the stars be your light.

  • Remember you want your main subject to attract the eye, not all the distracting elements surrounding it
  • Slow down and enjoy the creative process

Related Articles

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Do This Now

Please leave me a comment below – I’d love to know what you think. Brent

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