Learn How to Use Backlight in Photography

October 14, 2010

in Lighting, Photography Tips, Photography Tutorials

Learn How to Use Backlight in Photography

Today we are learning how to use and love backlight in photos!

Are you one of those photographers who fear the sun? I mean downright gets the shakes to even fathom shooting someone in it?

Fear not any longer my friends. Backlight is beautiful. It’s magical. It adds that little something extra that makes your image more than an aww that’s cute image, but a WOW that rocks, image. It means having to step into the light.

A couple things that get me by when shooting backlight…
-Try different angles
-Embrace Haze and Lens flare
-Block the sun
-Use a reflector

As long as the sun isn’t at high noon (meaning straight above you or your subjects head) you can work with:

Angles. Position your subject facing away from the sun. The best times for working with backlight is right after sunrise or right before sunset. The sun is angled nicely so it hits the back of your subjects head and not the top. But it can be done at other times.

This image was taken at around 10am.
Learn How to Use Backlight in Photography via I Heart Faces

This image was taken about 4 in the afternoon.
Learn How to Use Backlight in Photography via I Heart Faces

If the shot isn’t working try a different angle or take one step to the side. It might fix your problems.

In the top image she was about to smooch a big sun face.

I then took one big step to my left and the sun was hidden partly (enough) by his head to get the shot.
Learn How to Use Backlight in Photography via I Heart Faces

Haze. Love it. Hold onto it. Squeeze it as tight as you can. Sometimes (almost 99% of the time for me) haze adds to the mood of the shot. Don’t feel you have to go and add tons of contrast to get rid of it.
Learn How to Use Backlight in Photography via I Heart Faces
Learn How to Use Backlight in Photography via I Heart Faces

Lens Flare. Again, don’t fear this. It’s natural and its fun.
Learn How to Use Backlight in Photography via I Heart Faces
Learn How to Use Backlight in Photography via I Heart Faces

Partially block the sun. With a building, tree, whatever. You can get beautiful sun rays as a result.

Learn How to Use Backlight in Photography via I Heart Faces

Reflector. Pull it out and it can add light to the subjects face and eliminate haze.
Learn How to Use Backlight in Photography via I Heart Faces
Learn How to Use Backlight in Photography via I Heart Faces

Dark Background. Last piece of advice: place your subject against a dark background and you will get beautiful hair light.
Learn How to Use Backlight in Photography via I Heart Faces

ps: Focus can be difficult. Find a hard line on the face or eyes to focus on. And if all else fails, manual focus.

Get out there and stick that sun behind your subject. You never know what you could get.

Happy Shooting!

 

Becky Earl is a hobbyist photographer, but more importantly a wife and mother to three beautiful children. Becky loves to create ART in her spare time (aka when the kids are busy) and loves learning new things about photography (aka when the hubby is busy). She offers Blog Your ART Templates at an affordable price to photographers who want to spice up the look of their blog. You can find her hanging out on her blog THE BLOG , Facebook and Twitter.

{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

Emma November 21, 2012

Beautiful photos!

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REB6studios Videography November 9, 2010

great tips! Id definitely try this out!

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tangie October 17, 2010

thank you for this great article!!! wonderful info with perfect examples!!

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bridget edwards October 16, 2010

How can you *not* love a post with this title?!? :::: Baby Got Backlight (from @iheartfaces ) http://ow.ly/2UAoM

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Mique Provost October 16, 2010

Love the title, love Becky Earl, love this post! Baby Got Backlight. http://t.co/HNFtiTl

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JoeyfromSC October 16, 2010

RT @TCreativeBlogs: What amazing shots! http://su.pr/1slVWT

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TCreativeBlogs October 16, 2010

What amazing shots! http://su.pr/1slVWT

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JoeyfromSC October 16, 2010

Thanks for the tips! I am SO impressed with your photos! WOW!!

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bridget {bake at 350} October 16, 2010

These shots are just BEAUTIFUL!!!

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Kristen October 15, 2010

Such beautiful photos and great tips. Love it!

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Desiree Cherisse October 15, 2010

i have come to embrace backlighting. i’ve always loved how the natural haze and sun-flares looked in images. but was scared to do it. now i’m addicted!

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aubrey October 15, 2010

That is funny- I get scared shooting without the sun! I love it! It makes magic;-)
Happy Friday!

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Krista October 15, 2010

I love every one of these photos. Magical.

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Barbara Ryan October 15, 2010

Great tips – Baby Got Backlight. http://t.co/H89uZpu

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Knoxville October 15, 2010

I love to use the sun as a hair light and rim light when using some heavy duty flash outside.

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Angel Perry October 15, 2010

My FAV is the morning shot :] Gorgeous!

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Dawniele Castellanos October 15, 2010

I wouldn’t say I was afraid of backlighting, I just didnt’ think I did it well. Thanks for posting. Gives me some confidence.

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Angie D October 14, 2010

What a life saver I have an outdoor family shoot scheduled for 10a.m. this weekend that I’ve been stressing about and now I’m excited. Great information.

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Trisha October 14, 2010

OMG! I am famous! Lol 😉 I was so lucky to have Becky take pics of me and my daughter! She is so talented and an inspiration to many! Thank you for posting this info!

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Helen October 14, 2010

Ok, disregard my question of squinting! I just tried this with my boys and they didn’t squint nearly as much as I thought they would. And it seriously was all about the angles – from some angles their faces were really dark and other angles they were lit and I got that cool hazy look!

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Jamie October 14, 2010

I was also wondering about whether or not to use a flash when subjects are backlit. It seems my subjects are too dark when the light is behind them.

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Janea Greene October 14, 2010

Thanks for this!! I’m about to head out to do a photo shoot and I was thinking to myself… I love lens flare and all , but I’m still learning how to achieve it.. WOW!! What a boost of confidence!! Yay! Thanks!

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Helen October 14, 2010

Great post! I think I need to get my kiddos outside this afternoon and try some of this… And I totally need to look up what a reflector is!

Any ideas how to pull this stuff off when the subject is blue eyed and wants to be squinty when there’s sun around? I always just opt to shoot in the shade, but would love to find a way to shoot my boys in the full on sun!

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Emma October 14, 2010

I am inspired to shoot some backlight shots this weekend!
Thank you Becky for the hints and tips!!!
Emma

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Sue October 14, 2010

Was flash used in any of these? I struggle with sun and just shot a wedding that had a beautiful skyline view of the city. BUT, the sun was right above the buildings, directly in front of me. It was horrific! I couldn’t get my subjects lit well and the flare was WAAY too much. :( Another photog that I was shooting with shot with flash and her photos came out much better than mine (sans flash).

~S

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Emily October 14, 2010

Man wish I had this information when I took engagement photos for my niece almost 2 weeks ago. Things that seemed obvious just didn’t click. And a reflector is so in my future….lol

Em

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Christy October 14, 2010

Thanks for the posting. I haven’t been much to work with sun but I will definitely be adding it to my to try list!

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Emily@remodelingthislife October 14, 2010

These pics are all so awesome and I am totally cracking up at the post title.

$100 says if I go outside and try to do this it won’t turn out well, but I’m gonna try.

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Thauna October 14, 2010

Awesome post. I’ve been playing some with backlight and sun flare and it is super fun!! HS Seniors + sun flare/backlight = a few of my favorites shots!

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AndreaG October 14, 2010

RT @iHeartFaces Baby Got Backlight.: Are you one of those photographers who fear the sun? I mean downright http://goo.gl/fb/HOu3s

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Nichole October 14, 2010

Becky thank you so much for the tips! Your photography is beautiful and always a pleaseure to look at!

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amy October 14, 2010

Becky- Your photos are amazing!!! Thanks for the great tips.

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Lindsay Garrett October 14, 2010

Some of these photos of becky’s are ny absolute fav’s. I LOVE her whole series with the married couple and the vintage car, and of course, her fabulous, beautiful blonde model.

Back lighting, sunspots, and sunbursts are my ABSOLUTE FAV pictures. I have been trying these pics out with the little pumpkin for a couple months now. I have some great ones to upload once we finally get our computer virus free, ha ha!

These photos are too die for. I am definently not afraid of the sun.

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Jake Easley October 14, 2010

Beautiful images!

I’m a HUGE fan of backlight! You mentioned focus, and how tough it can be at times. One trick I use, is to place my left hand slightly in front of and above the lens. Just enough to block out the sun and find my focus. Then I recompose without releasing my focus.

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Jessica October 14, 2010

Thanks for the tips! I am one who fears the sun! I will get out there and practice :)

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Jayme October 14, 2010

This is great, thanks. :)

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April Russell October 14, 2010

I will admit I fear it at times… but only when I feel it is necc. to show my clients face. I love natural and beautiful sunflares w/ haze!

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Jessaca October 14, 2010

All of these photos are stunning and great examples of how to use the sun to your advantage. Thanks for posting this. Very inspirring and not worthy!!!!

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TidyMom October 14, 2010

Can’t WAIT to give this a try!!!! Thanks for a great post!

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Jennifer October 14, 2010
Jessica October 14, 2010

Those pictures are seriously amazing, all of them! Love the tips.

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Erin October 14, 2010

Thank you for this!

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Rachel October 14, 2010

I recently figured out backlighting and MAN OH MAN, has it improved my photography 100 fold. Best decision I have ever made.

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Matt Sanderson October 14, 2010

RT @iHeartFaces Baby Got Backlight.: Are you one of those photographers who fear the sun? I mean downright… http://goo.gl/fb/HOu3s

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Captivus October 14, 2010

Oh I just LOVE shooting in the sun light! Awesome post! Great tips! Thanks for this!

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