Backlight photography may seem counter-intuitive, but it is ultimately a rewarding experience. Most photographers have been conditioned to avoid backlighting an image at all costs, but as you will soon find out, the results can be stunning. In the following article, we will cover the essentials, and by the end, you will learn how to embrace the dark and create beautiful compositions.
As the name suggests, backlighting refers to a light source positioned behind the subject, and in backlight photography, the said light source is key in the composition of the image. The camera-facing light source, be it natural or artificial, leaks and wraps around the edge of the subject blocking it, creating an almost silhouette-like effect when done properly. This is not to be confused with background lighting, which refers to the technique of illuminating the backdrop of a set. Backlighting is incredible in creating additional depth and attaining visual impact. However, it can be tricky to apply properly, and excessive backlighting can lead to over exposure and unfavorable shadows. But with the tips below, you will be well on your well to mastering backlight photographer.
While it is totally possible to capture beautiful backlit photographs indoors with an adequate set up, for now we will cover the most accessible flash gun in the world: the sun. Covering up the light source is a must in producing the quintessential backlight shot, so the optimal time for backlight photography is undoubtedly in the morning or late afternoon. You will have an easier time positioning your subject against the sun.
One thing to take note of is the exposure of your subject. It is completely up to your creative discretion, but we suggest keeping at least some features of your subject visible so your image does not become a mish mash of shadows. You will know your image is properly exposed when you see your subject gently enveloped by a ring of light, giving the composition that the long-sought-after dramatic lighting effect.
One last tip – try to avoid an overcomplicated background so you can focus on balancing the exposure between the light glow and the subject features. Happy hunting shadows!