How to take a backlit photo? Step by step method

Face the sun, press the shutter button. At this point in the article, you have understood the interest of photographing against the light, and you are almost operational! It only remains for me to share a few technical aspects with you.

Place the sun and expose your subject

As we have seen, a backlit photo has a strong contrast, that is to say a strong gap between the dark tones and the light tones. You have several possible actions:

  • If the sun is an integral part of your composition, include it in the frame. This is often the case in landscape photography. Thus, you further increase the gap between highlights and shadows. You will often see two bumps on the histogram: one to the left and one to the right.

To get away with this, you can expose to the right so that you have more latitude in post-processing. Note that a slight clipping to the right is not a drama, as the light source has no detail.

  • If the sun is not really the subject of your backlit photo: include it in the frame but hide it behind the subject or behind an element of the image (tree, building). It’s a classic portrait trick, for example – especially at the end of the day when the sun is low in the sky.

    By doing this, you decrease the dynamic range of the image. Next, you will expose for the subject (using spot metering mode or matrix/evaluative metering mode with a positive exposure compensation value ).

  • Third solution, you can completely exclude the sun from the frame, placing it about 30 or 45° behind your subject, (but no more, otherwise you will see a spot of all white light appear on his cheek). Then expose for the subject like just before.

    Another little trick, if you don’t want the background to be overexposed, you can adjust your composition so that the background is a darker tone than your topic. This is the case of the photo at the beginning with a grass slope in the background:

To limit the difference in exposure between your subject and its surroundings, you can also use a reflector or a flash to illuminate the subject’s face. If you want to test, start with a reflector, it’s the easiest to manage!

You have understood, all the art consists in limiting the difference in luminosity between the highlights and the shadows to avoid overexposure, or else to assume it completely by making a frank choice. Only you can make this decision.

Use your sun visor to avoid flare

Flare is an optical phenomenon that occurs when you have a light source in the viewfinder. Sometimes it happens even if the sun is outside the frame, since the light rays can enter directly into the front lens of your lens. Go for more here.

The flare is manifested by colored luminous halos and by a haze effect which reduces the contrast of the overall image. We had spoken about it in detail in this paragraph of the article on photo filters, but the simplest thing is still that you look at the first photo of the article, you will immediately understand! This phenomenon can be sought in certain cases, but to avoid it, the lens hood will be your best ally. Very simply, the lens hood will prevent the rays of the light source from directly illuminating the front lens of your lens.

Shoot in RAW and post-process your images

Even if you put all your passion into shooting, the work should still go. And We advise you to go through the post-processing box to adjust your tones with small onions, and therefore incidentally to shoot in RAW.

Typically, you’ll often tweak exposure, contrast, midtones to find a balance that works for you. For the backlit portrait photo, you will probably have to do some local retouching on the subject’s face!

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