Placing the main light source behind a subject often creates very cool moods (indoors and outdoors). Here’s why I love backlighting!

What’s backlighting?

Backlighting is any type of photography where the main light source comes from behind the subject. (The primary light faces directly toward the camera.)

Why do I love backlighting?

1. Occasional flare

Flare happens when the light enters the lens and hit the camera’s sensor. Some find it undesirable, some love it (as I do!). I feel that lens flare adds depth and a dreamlike feel to the image.

It’s easy to modify the look of the flare (or avoid it altogether) simply by moving just a little to change the camera’s angle, like the image above.

2. It adds drama

Let’s have a look for a second at the picture below. It’s a Strongman (a big one!) carrying (a proportionally big and heavy) frame. The huge highlight and shadows contrast, the intense black and white look … I mean … I don’t know how I could’ve possibly create more drama than this highly contrasted backlit shot.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t see who it is: You can FEEL it. Which bring me to the third reason …

Backlit Strongman Athlete
Backlighting can be achieved indoor and outdoor as well. I’ve taken this picture in a garage gym. Poor lighting can sometimes create interesting results!

3. Silhouette effect

If the subject is underexposed compared to the background, which results a beautiful silhouette. Once you get it the right way in camera, it’s very easy to put the final touches to bring the WOW effect. I’m pretty sure you’ve already seen amazing sunrise landscapes with this concept, where the sky is perfectly exposed with wonderful colors and black silhouettes of people/trees, to enhance composition.

Backlighting black and white outdoor
Not only did backlighting allowed me to do a nice silhouette, but the evening sun also created a beautiful lens flare.

4. Outlined glow

Backlighting naturally enhance details by beautifully enlightening your subject’s contours. It will also enhance dust (great for gym chalk and outdoor running) and droplets (it looks amazing if it’s raining or snowing outside).

Another benefit of this outlined glow is being able to isolate the subject from the background, which helps t add depth (for a 3D effect).

Backlighting plants

Don’t be afraid to explore backlighting

When I was starting photography, I had the tendency to always look for front lighting. I thought it was the only proper way to light — and enhance — my subjects.

It didn’t take too long, through trial and error, to realize that moving around to get different light angles got me quite interesting results. So don’t be afraid … backlighting will do wonders for pictures as well!