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In this article, I’ll explain how to photograph into the light.
This technique is sometimes called contre-jour, a French term that literally translates to “against the light.”
Now, there are various ways you can approach this style of photography. You can choose to photograph stunning silhouettes, or you can attempt to mitigate dark areas in your photo through post-processing.
To discover the best ways of photographing into the light, read on!
Photographing into the light is a great way to add drama to your photos.
(Note that photographing into the light is also known as backlit photography.)
But to get nice images, you’ll need to have a good understanding of how the light will interact with your camera.
Now, almost everyone will have shot against the light at some point (e.g., when photographing a sunrise or sunset).
But if you can understand how to control the light across your frame, you can create especially incredible results.
For instance, one of the most obvious effects you’ll see when doing backlit photography is a silhouette, which I discuss in the next section.
Silhouettes are shapes formed by objects in front of a brighter background.
They’re very appealing to photographers because you can produce powerful shapes, which will give your images a very graphic feel.
You won’t get good silhouettes by just pointing the camera into the light, however. Some planning is needed to get the best result.
Specifically, you’ll want:
The sky is an important part of your photos, especially if you’re a landscape photographer. And photographing into the light can lead to some of the best results.
What you’re looking for are beautiful sunset colors, rays of light coming through clouds, and perhaps a starburst effect from the sun.
You’ll need to choose the correct time of day to improve your results – often sunrise or sunset. The hour before sunset and the hour after sunrise are also optimal.
The final key element is often about 30% cloud coverage.
Here are a few quick tips for photographing backlit landscapes:
When photographing silhouettes, an underexposed foreground is what you want – but what if you’re after a detailed background and a detailed foreground?
For the best result, you’ll need to balance the light throughout your photo. Otherwise, you’ll produce an overexposed sky or an underexposed foreground.
There are two approaches you can use; one is in-camera, and the other uses post-processing.
Photographing into the light can lead to flare in your photos.
While flare can be used artistically, you’ll at least want to control it. And you’ll sometimes need to prevent the flare entirely.
Use the following tips to control flare in your photos:
Photographing into the light usually means photographing toward the sun, or photographing from a dark location (e.g., under a bridge) toward the light.
In such cases, the light source is natural and can’t be controlled. However, if you use off-camera flash, you can control the direction of the light.
So try using strobes to produce silhouettes or to backlight your subject. And at night, try light painting, and make sure the light source is behind your main subject.
Successfully photographing into the light can be a bit of a challenge.
But with the right approach and the correct camera settings, you’ll get great results!
Now over to you:
Do you enjoy photographing into the light? What are your favorite situations for producing backlit images? Share your thoughts and photos in the comments below!