When using backlighting in an image, the first thing to decide on the light source. For beauty portraits, I prefer to use natural light, as it has a soft and lovely look to it, but this can easily be accomplished with studio lighting. In this tutorial, images are taken using a very large window diffused by sheer white curtains. The curtains I used for this window are simple netted curtains from IKEA named LILL and are just $4.99 a set. There are 3 sets on the curtain rod and a pair of VIVIAN curtains that can be purchased for $9.99. I have these set up on the very outside edges as a backup in case sunlight is shining directly into the room. To prevent hotspots, I remove them from the rod and clamp them over the sheers, which diffuses the light even further.

Vflat & Backlight-2
Sheer curtains are placed over the window to diffuse the light for backlighting.

Position your subject approximately 3 to 4 feet in front of your light source. If they are too close to the light, there is a risk that their hair will be blown out too much and recovering that can be challenging. Once your subject is placed in front of the light, you will see that their front side will be underexposed without lighting them from the front. Using the v-flats from THIS tutorial, I placed one on each side to bounce light back onto her face. The v-flats are positioned at a 45 angle and only about 2 feet away from the woman.

Vflat & Backlight-1
Subject is in front of the light source with v-flats bouncing fill light onto her face.

As you can see, this leaves a gap in the front to shoot through. Once I was ready to start shooting, there was only a 6-8″ gap between the two v-flats. To get a proper exposure against backlight, spot meter the brightest part of the subject’s face, which is typically the apple of the cheek or forehead. Overexposing by at least a half stop will sufficiently blow out the backlight and properly expose the subject.

The results of using v-flats to bounce light back onto the subject is beautiful diffused light, and adds subtle catchlights to the eyes. Camera settings: Nikon D800E, 50mm @ f/2.8, 1/250th, ISO 400.

Using this fairly simple setup is both cheap and flattering to the subject, and can be done just about anywhere.

**To learn how to assemble your own v-flats, click HERE.