Photography Tips – Backlighting – an Introduction


another way you can go against
conventional wisdom is to shoot against the light this is called back lighting I’ve got a rim, a halo running across my shoulders through my hair and down the other side, it’s called a rim light this is caused by back lighting and it’s making it extra decorative i feel. Back lighting works particularly well
with translucent subjects such as a bottle of wine glass, due drops, ice things of that nature. It’s also great with portraits now janey is shooting against the light with the video camera and that is why i have this rim light going on all around me. To explain the technique i’m going to talk you through a back lit portrait by doing one of Nat here. as you can see the sun’s coming from
right behind us it’s really quite strong we’ve got the river we got some trees
off into the distance there, these are really really useful because when you’re
back lighting a portrait it’s often best to have your subject against something dark, if you have, if i have Nats head against the sky we’d probably lose that rim lighting effect, because the sky is really really bright. Now in order to get that isolation against the background i’m going to use a fairly long-ish lens because that will help me to isolate Tash, against whats going on behind her. when shooting into light you want to always make sure you’ve got a lens hood on, the lens hood acts like your hand over your eyes when you’re looking into the sunlight yourself if you don’t use a lens hood the chances are you’ll have a milky
washed out picture or a little boom boom boom boom boom ringlets going across it. This is called lens flare it’s great as a technique and it can look really smart but the purposes of what we’re doing now let’s just say you
don’t want it, so use a lens hood. so let’s have a go shooting a picture of
tash that’s it straighten your dress out. excellent. now just kind of look over into the trees Nat, can we just have a moody old looking into the distance. Turn your face a little to your right that’s it plenty, i don’t want to get too much light on the tip of your nose. Now when you frame-up the shot, to make sure you’ve isolated your subject against the
background, suns gone down a bit but it’s still plenty enough for back light for rim light. just shoot the shot, chances are the camera will get confused
because there’s loads of light going on behind your subject, that might upset it
and you’ll need to overexpose to compensate. The background will get really bright but it means your subject will be the correct exposure. So i need to brighten up that last shot i did of Tash i can do that by dialing in a bit of exposure compensation, i’m going to go to plus one stop, that’s going to make the picture twice as bright but the background will get brighter but tash will become the correct exposure. Let’s re-compose the shot, there we go, that’s it Tash. Let your shoulders relax a bit, it’s very good, we’re getting good at this. There we go that’s great, Tash is now at the correct exposure. come on sun we want more of you. another way you could do it it would be
to press the auto exposure lock button on the the back of the camera, if you go up close to your subject fill the frame with her or him or it, according to what you’re doing you press the auto exposure lock button like that, and as long as i hold my thumb on that button doesn’t matter where i point the camera, it’s going to keep that same exposure locked into the camera then all we have to do is re-compose your shot, and take the picture. Once again tash is perfectly exposed. Alternatively you could do it manually and that’s much the same as the last technique, you just go up close fill the frame, read of the exposure on the camera’s light meter this is a hundred and sixtieth of a second at F five point-six go to manual mode and set a hundred and sixtieth of a second at F five point six. Just like that. Take the shot, job done, when you do that ignore the camera’s light meter because it might say this is way over exposed, it isn’t you’ve exposed for the subject not the background. That’s really all there is to it. Back lighting can add a real dinamisum to your photography and i really recommend grab your camera on a sunny day, get yourself out there and have a go at this.

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100 thoughts on “Photography Tips – Backlighting – an Introduction

  1. What is free ???plz.i live in london .and want to do photograph course .but is very expensive in college.how can you help me .????

  2. There's never been a better photography teacher than the great Mike Browne! Even explained a lens hood in 2 seconds.

  3. Mighty Thanks Mike for this enlightening tutorial. That small AE-L button on the back of my Nikon D5500 used to bug me a lot and I couldn't get to know its function. You have explained the backlighting so lucidly that all one needs to do is go practice with your words ringing in mind. Thanks again Sir.

  4. I like your videos there are a lot of helpful tips. In this one I think it would benefit to explain that AEL only works with automatic or partially automatic modes some people when making the transition from the manual modes don't understand the simplicity that THEY are fully in control of the exposure and that they take a reading and then ignore the lightmetre that would also benefit from a whole lesson for it to sink in for people even though you covered it briefly I feel, at least I know it is something that confused me for quite some time

  5. Found you today on YT and am new subscriber as well. Your way of explaining is so simple and clear. One question here, when you added one f-stop for the pic are you still in "auto" mode or some other??

  6. Would like to have seen your photos with the AE – L button held or exposure manually at the end… your final shots.

  7. I found problem to focusing a portrait in manual and autofocusing with blacklight when I use exposure compensation.is there any role to focusing in exposure compensation?my camera d5500.lens 18-55 vr nikon

  8. Mike Browne, I spent almost $70 in cable bill a month, my point being, I would rather donate the $70 bux to your channel a month on a more productive, more enlightening and more satisfying than these garbage we watch on TV Today. Am now your Latest Subsciber. Start a Go Fund Me Page Bro.

  9. Just curious Mike, do you use the histogram? I find tons of articles how everyone seems to claim it's the ONLY way. But, i find it slows things down and overcomplicates things so unecessarily. It's about the art of seeing, not reading schematics.

  10. you are a natural as a teacher. I aspire to take a few decent pics………you have a great presentation. Thank you!!! Your video helped a lot.

  11. Or, you could simply use a light meter with an incident attachment? Them just hold the meter up at your shoulder, pointing away from the model! Auto metering is never accurate, and stops the photographer learning! Skin tone is mid grey + 1 stop, or unit of exposure!

  12. There is something to be said about blond hair and sunlight and the sun as it catches it, gives it a silky look something similar with red hair. That is if you're into modeling.

  13. Man 1st the focal length video, my favorite one and now this back light one. Its like I am asking GOD to educate me on photography & he is directing me to your videos. Awesome explanation by Mike Sir.

  14. I programmed my DoF button to spot meter, saves the walking up and back bit. Although I suppose I'm missing the benefits of the exercise. ;-D

  15. Just out of curiosity, is there a reason why you choose this technique as compared to setting your camera's metering mode to 'spot' and focusing that on the subject?

  16. Yours are the most informative videos I’ve come across. They contain practical, helpful advice. So much so I’m considering looking into your courses.

  17. One of my favorite and (so far) best pictures is that of my cat Alice when she was still a juvenile while sitting in the window. She's all black, and the maroon curtains were parted and she was sitting in the part with the sun coming in the window behind her. The backlight made her black fur very black when the camera compensated for the light, which allowed the copper hue in her eyes to stand out as well.

  18. The problem with that is that it blows out your skies. This is why flash is needed when shooting outside if you want to keep your skies blue or keep the details in the sky. 🙂

  19. So, to get the correct exposure I have to do what you did? Walk near my model, fill my frame, hold the auto exposure button, then walk away and retake the shot?

  20. Hi. I have a question about the technique where you are moving in on the subject to use the AE-L button. What is the benefit of this over simply using spot metering on her face from the place you are taking the shot? You could spot meter on her face, hold the AE-L button, recompose and shoot. Is it about producing a more accurate reading from the light meter in your camera? Or simply to avoid the risk of hitting the background while spot-metering? Really curious about this.

  21. Excellent video. Just noticed however that the pic you shot at 2:52 and the result pic shown at 2:55 are not the same pic. Different arm on Nat's side..

  22. At the company where I work there was a photo shooting for the HR department. A few days ago I heared a conversation of an amateur photoing girl at the nearby office who was criticizing the photo guy like “even an amateur knows not to put your subject in backlight” 😀 Actually I liked those backlit portraits that the criticized man made.

  23. As a beginner it is usually hard to decide for me if I should expose the subject properly and don’t care about the overexposed background or should I underexpose the subject and correct the exposure of the subject only (by masking) in a RAW-editing software later so both background and subject would be similarly exposed.

  24. Use a hand held meter in incident mode and point the diffuser dome AWAY from the sun to get a perfect exposure. Alternatively, use an 18% reflectance card and meter the shady side. Automatic cameras are GREAT but at times the old school method is just as good and quicker.

  25. Thanks for another great video!! I have been shooting since I was 11 years old (won't tell you how long ago that was, but it involved film and a Canon AE-1 Programme) and I never ever thought of this. Amazing how we can go so many years and still learn something new. Love your videos, the way you explain things so clearly, and the humour. Thanks again!

  26. Its funny when you struggle with af/l plus ae/l but the sun goes away or the moment. No matter how well the ergonomics and functioning access of the cam is you still see pros with bunch of cams on their necks often with same lenses attached to different bodies.

  27. I'm curious how would that technique work on people who don't have light skin such as Indian, African, etc?

  28. Wow… finally! I cracked the secret code of backlighting style in robert richardson's cinematography. Thx to your tutorial video, sir. it's very helpful and informative 😎

  29. Mike, learning a lot from you ever since I found you here. I have a question, you did go near your model and got the exposure settings and then set it manually but you moved back to take the shot. Doesn't it make the difference for the exposure?

  30. I love back lighting it’s so pretty.
    That spot you’re in is gorgeous.
    I love to use this technique and adding a flash to get rid of any shadows and avoid the over exposure.

  31. OOoh' are we gonna see a series of vids covering all the mystery buttons on modern cameras ? 😉 = Brilliant 🙂

  32. You said use a long lens but did not say what you were using AND in your last shot what setting did u used to determine how to set camera in manual to take the shot. This helps a newbie

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