Grey Kangaroo - Back lighting

Many amateur photographers are intimidated by backlighting because they’re taught to always shoot with the light above or ‘behind’ the photographer. You want the light to fall on the subject from the same direction as the camera to capture details and the full beauty of the subject. Backlight is when the light source is behind the subject and is moving in the direction of the camera.

You need to take the picture carefully because backlighting can easily overwhelm a subject and cause overexposure. Listed below are some tips that can help you take excellent photographs with backlighting:

#1 All Forms of Light Can Be Used For Backlighting

Backlit pictures look great when they’re taken in natural light but this doesn’t mean they can’t be taken with artificial light. In fact, some wildlife photographers have taken stunning shots with a large spotlight or halogen light in the background to provide the right effect. Artificial light comes into play during the night and can create an interesting contrast of darkness and brightness. The quality of the picture relies on the strength of the source of light. That’s one of the reasons why natural sunlight also works so well and is used so often by professional photographers.

#2 The Angle of Light Matters

During the daytime, when the sun is high in the sky, the entire landscape will be filled with light. In such circumstances, it’s easy to forget just how important the angle of light is. You need to consider how sunlight falls on the subject when you take pictures because that would affect how backlighting shows on your pictures. For example, if the sun is high in the sky, the angle of light faces downwards and would create a top lit as well as a backlit effect. However, if the sun is lower and closer to the horizon, the angle of light would be nearly parallel to the ground, which would create better backlighting conditions.

#3 Consider What Kind of Effect You Want

Backlighting can help you take a versatile range of pictures based on how you position and set the camera. You can capture an amazing amount of detail and still take advantage of the rim-like effect of backlighting if you have enough ambient light. The brightness of ambient light would ensure your subject isn’t overwhelmed by the backlighting and cast in shadow. However, if you do want that silhouetted effect, you can take pictures when the ambient light isn’t as bright as the backlight. This is usually during the golden hours of dawn and dusk.

#4 Exposure is Important

Exposure is the most important factor in backlight photography because it determines just how your camera perceives light. In good conditions with ample ambient light, Evaluative/Matrix/Pattern metering works well. However, if the conditions are less than ideal and there’s a higher contrast between shadows and light, you’ll need different metering settings like spot metering.

You can meter on the dark area and maintain detail in the shadows created by the light and still have the white highlights. This would allow you to capture details like texture, colour, and depth. You can also focus on the bright portion of the frame and let the light overwhelm the subject to create the mysterious-looking silhouette effect. Exposure would determine just how backlighting is utilised in a picture.

If you have a passion for wildlife, nature or travel photography and would love to go on a small-number, professional photography adventure, please get in touch with Michael Snedic at WildNature Photo Expeditions. You can call him on 0408 941 965 or fill in this Contact Form and he will get back to you ASAP.

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