Photo by Scott Bourne – Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs Creative Commons

Typically, I tell beginners to put the sun at their backs. This means they stand the best chance of even illumination of their subjects. But sometimes, it’s fun to experiment. If you want a dramatic feel to your images, reverse my earlier directions and stand facing the sun – with your subject between the camera and the sun. This is called backlighting. You can use a flash, or a hot light or any light source but the outcome will be the same. The backlit subject will appear to pop out of the photo.

Backlighting can be used to achieve all sorts of effects but some of my favorites include:

1. Translucency
2. Texture
3. Mood
4. Delicacy

I shot the image above at the Las Vegas Greek Food Festival. I liked the juxtaposition of the Greek and American flags and the sun was shining through the flags to add interest.

It’s not a Pulitzer Prize winner but it illustrates the concept well. If you’re looking for a weekend project, why not go out and try to find something to shoot backlit.

P.S. If there are faces in your shot you’ll still need some front fill – so don’t just rely on backlighting if there are details in the shadows we need to see. Have fun.


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