Want to separate yourself from your competition? Learn how to backlight your subjects!

In all my years of photography, none of my images get as many oohs and ahhhs as my backlit images. Combine a backlit image with some interesting bokeh or scenery and it’s a recipe for more bookings!

Here are four quick tips to maximize your backlit portraits:

1. Make sure it’s indoors or after dark outdoors

This is kind of a no brainer. In order for backlighting to be successful, the ambient light really needs to be dark.

If you’re outdoors, wait until after sunset or even twilight before backlighting an image. I’ve tried back lighting during the day and I’ve failed time and time again. Nighttime backlit images are a snap.

Moreover, you’ll really light up your subject and separate them from the background. You’ll create an image that really pops!

2. Look for interesting backgrounds/scenes for captivating bokeh and visual interest!

The next thing I do is look for background lights that will add to the image. That could be a cityscape, a busy street or intersection, a row of streetlights, etc. If you’re into bokeh, the combination of backlighting and interesting bokeh make for potentially jaw dropping images!

I used a Godox AD300pro at the far end of the tunnel. The tunnel itself has ribs; I knew the backlight would hit those ribs and make each look as if they were illuminated separately.

3. Set your backlight further away than you believe is necessary

The most common mistake I see with back lit images is how close the light source is to the subject. In order to effectively backlight, you want the lighting to be hard — not soft and diffuse as if you were lighting a face.

You know the old rule, the larger the light source, the softer the light. You’ll want hard light for a back lit subject, but you also don’t want the backlight to overpower the subject. You want to use the backlight to isolate them and separate them from the background. Ideally, the backlight will define and rim your subject for maximum wow factor.

4. Underexpose, underexpose, underexpose!

The last and probably most important tip is to underexpose your image. Set the EV to somewhere between -1 to -3. Take some test shots and see what you get to taste. We’re trying to create a high contrast image that pops! A flat, evenly exposed image will lose all of the desired effect of a backlit image.

Now go out and give it a try. Backlighting your images will open creative doors and business opportunities you never knew existed. Get ready for some of your own oohs and ahhhs! Happy shooting!