Hi! I'm Jen Lebo. I'm here to help you with all things
photography! Life is more beautiful when you share it, so let's
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In my last blog post, I spoke to you about the basics of front lighting, which is when your light source is behind you and lighting your subject from the front. I shared with you some of the benefits of front lighting (safe exposures, overall even light, etc) and some of its drawbacks (boring, boring boring).
Today I want to share with you my love for backlighting. Oh dreamy backlighting, how I love you so. Oh, sorry. Lost my train of thought there.
So backlighting is simply when your subject is lit from the back, which means that your light source is in front of you, perhaps blinding you. Yes, I still say backlighting is amazing, even though my eyes hurt for a good while after shooting this way, because for its few drawbacks, the results can be absolutely gorgeous.
So what drawbacks? Well, first there’s that small factor of looking into the direction of the sun for awhile, which is really not all that fun. As well, moving your camera just a smidge to the right or the left can completely change your image, so you have to be careful, be still, and be aware of what you want and how to get it. It’s not easy.
But the benefits could far outweigh the drawbacks if you shoot correctly. For starters, your subjects are not looking into harsh light, so there’s no worry about squinty eyes or less than beautiful expressions. And while frontlighting is safe, and so it can be boring. Backlighting is a bit riskier, but the results are anything but safe and boring. You can shoot silhouettes, sun flare, and warm, creamy pics all in one take. Your snapshots become portraits, your pictures become stories, your subjects the most stunning characters, with rimlit hair and golden tones.
But you can’t just go outside at sunset, turn toward the sun, and start shooting. Well, you can, but chances are you’ll be disappointed with the outcome, unless you take these few tips into account.
The trick with shooting backlit is that your camera’s meter will want to set the exposure for that giant ball of light staring back at it. This will render your subject faceless and create a silhouette portrait. That’s fine, but maybe not what you wanted. So “meter” your camera for your subject’s face. That means that if you’re using your phone, you put that little “focus square” on her face. Or if you have your DSLR, you put that little square (which is the camera meter) on her face. Your camera might scream at you (figuratively speaking), but ignore it. You might overexpose the background, but your faces will be nicely exposed.
A simple tip to make shooting backlit a little easier is to let the sun drop a bit lower. Wait until it’s just setting below the treetops, or the mountain’s peaks, and then get to shooting. Your time will be more limited this way, and your location could get dark pretty fast, but the light will be softer and easier to work with this way.
If the sun is still visible, try to keep it out of the frame of your shot. Having the sun in the shot will wreak havoc on your camera’s meter, risking haze, sun glare, and unwanted silhouettes. So try to keep the sun just out of the frame. You’ll still get all of the beautiful light pouring into the shot, but without the harsh effects.
If you want to keep some of that background light and color without rendering an unexposed face, then try using a reflector between your body and your subject’s face. A reflector can be anything that simply reflects the light from behind her off itself and onto her face. You can use an actual photographer’s reflector, or simply a large sheet of white posterboard, or even a white sheet. I have found that wearing a white shirt can help reflect some of that backlit light if I’m standing close enough. Just try and have something reflective if you’re going to shoot with backlight.
I have found that when it comes to backlighting, the more I experiment, the more I discover new styles of portraiture that I love. So while you’re out there, try new things. I know I said to try and keep the sun out of your frame, but see what happens if you include it. Expose for the sky and see what happens to your subject’s face. Do you prefer the look of soft silhouettes or clear faces and overexposed skies? You won’t really know until you try them all out yourself. Leave yourself an extra five minutes at the end of your photo time to play a little.
So there you have it. Front Lighting and Back Lighting. So which do you prefer? The safe, even tones of lighting your subject from the front, or the risky, dramatic stories that come from backlit images? I love them both, and so I prefer to try and incorporate a little of both into every session. I’d suggest you try the same. And next time you’re out, take note of the way the light falls all around you. But be careful. “Once you begin to see light as a photographer, you will never see it the same way again.”
Hello and happy Monday! I've got another momtography tip for you today, and it's a great one for summer!
I'm not sure about the rest of you, but the sun is looming large and wonderfully here in our beautiful Rocky Mountain State, and so today's tip is about embracing that sun and playing with it a little bit.
Today I'm going to talk with you about backlighting.
Simply put, backlighting is when your light source (the sun in this case) is actually behind your subject and you are shooting into that light. It can be tricky, but it's fun to play around with, and you can capture some soft and stunning images this way.
A few simple tips to help you on your way to backlighting.
I know that not all of you own fancy photographer's reflectors, and that's ok. I've used white poster board, or even just my white shirt. If I know I'm going to try backlighting and won't have an actual reflector (or someone else to hold one), I make sure to wear white. Even that will help to reflect some of the light behind your subject onto her face.
When you are trying to backlight, your camera will want to expose for the scene behind your subject, especially if you are shooting with your phone or on automatic. What will happen then, is that you'll have a lovely sky and a dark, underexposed subject. Not what you want for a portrait. So make sure you expose for her. On your phone or on auto, that means making sure that red square that lights up is on her face, not the sky. You'll overexpose the sky and background a bit, but your subject will be nicely lit.
Backlighting is not easy, but it's worth trying out. Don't get discouraged if you struggle at first. You might underexpose your subject, or completely blow out the entire shot. So what? That's the fun of digital photography! We're not wasting film anymore, so you can practice until you understand it better.
Backlighting offers a completely different look to the typical front lit images. Rather than deep contrasts, you'll have a much softer image, where your lines almost blur. It's not easy, but it can be a lot of fun.
Try your hand at backlighting today. And then keep trying. You'll love it!
It's so easy to fall into the trap of comfort. Find something you've got a handle on, and stay with it. It's easy, it's comfortable, and it produces results. But isn't that part of the problem? It produces the same results. Over and over. Do that enough and you've entered into "dull and predictable". And who wants that in photography?
I was guilty of this for years when it came to my photography. Then I discovered backlighting. It was scary. The idea of putting the light in front of me and behind my subject completely took me out of my comfort zone. It blinded me- literally, many times. it confused me (how can I light my subject's face when her back is to the sun? Won't she be a silhouette? How do I use a reflector?). But then, with a little research and a lot of practice, it fascinated me. And it brought me a whole new style of portraiture.
With a simple reflector and some quick feet (you can't move the sun, so you've got to move your feet to get the sun where you want it in your shot), I have discovered the joy of backlighting. But even better, I have found the fun in stepping out of my comfort zone. So much so that I've recently registered for a course on how to use Off Camera Flash! Who knows where my willingness to try new things will take me?
The same goes for my walk with God. Slowly but surely, I'm learning to say "yes" to God, when it would be much easier to say "no", or better yet, pretend I don't hear Him.
Because just like with photography, when I step out of the comfort zone and say "yes" to God when He wants to stretch me, I often come to see the beautiful blessings that come as a result. My life is lit in a brand new way, and sometimes all it takes is moving my feet to where He wants me. Then, despite the circumstances, I can see His light pouring over my life.
Trust me, I'm still learning to say "yes" and move out of my comfort zone. I still want to daily stay stuck in my comfort zone. But the more I say "yes", the more I experience how trustworthy and faithful God is. And the more willing I am to say "yes". Just like learning a new skill for my craft, I become more willing to follow Him into new places.
Is God calling you out of your comfort zone? Where is He calling you? Are you ready to say "yes"? Or is something holding you back?
What if you said "yes" to Him? What would that look like today?