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Rediscovering Backlit Subjects


“Look where the sun is coming from – then position yourself with your back towards it so that it light up your subject’s face.”

This was the very first piece of photographic advice that I was ever given as a child entrusted with the family’s camera for a school excursion.

The intention behind it was good and in many photographic situations over the years it has actually served me well.

However…. sometimes in photography it can be easy to get trapped in a mindset that actually limits the potential of your shots.

My suspicion is that many people are being limited by the above piece of advice – lighting your subject from the front and avoiding back lighting at all costs.

The problem with ignoring back lighting images is that:

  • backlight can add drama to an image
  • backlit images can show the delicacy of a subject (think transparent or translucent things like flowers or insects)
  • backlight can help create real mood in a shot
  • backlit images can highlight details on the edges of subjects
  • backlight can reveal textures that might previously have been hidden
  • backlit images can show off the shape and form of a subject
  • backlight can create shadows that add points of interest to an image

I’m not arguing that backlit subjects are the way you should approach every shot – but ignoring it as an option ca leave you potentially missing out on a very powerful technique.

Check out some of the following images that show the beauty of power of ignoring the age old advice of always lighting a subject from the front.

PS: just because your subject is backlit doesn’t mean you need to forget about how they are lit from the front. Using a Fill Flash and/or some sort of reflector is often a great way to get the balance right for a well exposed shot.






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Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse

is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals.

He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

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