Photo Tip “Backlighting”

Photo tip – Use backlighting!

A backlit image is a photograph that is shot facing the direction of the light. Do not photograph facing the light! Have heard this before? If so, then please forget you did. Backlit images provide a large amount of interesting and intriguing subjects and many ways to create different images.
One example is silhouettes and their paper-cut effect. Here there is stark contrast of an intense black colour against an overly white surface area. Mist, smoke or other particles in the atmosphere result in light dispersion and therefore in a reduction in contrast.
The contours cast shadows in the direction of the photographer. With high contrasts, the colours fade into the background. This can create interesting light fringes around the contours and outlines. Portraits that are backlit can create e.g. light fringing on hair and body hair. Depending on the effect you wish to achieve, be aware of this.
Transparent objects often become see through and their transparency, not their colour; shape the image. For e.g. blades of grass, flowers and leaves their transparency is at the forefront.

In backlit images several problems may arise. On the one hand, it is hard to determine the correct exposure, as contrast is so stark. On the other hand, an undesired reduction in contrast can occur if stray light hits the lens. Lens flares are another phenomenon that is sometimes visible in the image. Depending on the shape of the diaphragm, these flares can appear round as circles or more angular. There are several tips below on how to counter this problem.

Tips and tools for capturing backlit images

  • As it is difficult to achieve the correct amount of exposure using backlighting, in many cases bracketing is recommendable
  • If you want to create a paper-cut effect of outlines, you should expose the brighter areas of the image
  • An important tool in capturing backlit images is the lens hood. The lens hood reduces the risk of an unwanted reduction in contrast and the risk of lens flare in an image.
    • It is important that the lens hood is adjusted to the lens correctly, as otherwise you risk vignetting (fades off towards the edges of the image if the lens hood is intended to be used for a longer focal length) or in the reverse case if the lens hood does not have enough impact
    • Recently, there have been more inexpensive alternatives to the generally overpriced lens hoods by the lens manufacturers

 

The following image was captured during a hike on the GR 20 in Corsica.

captured during a hike on the GR 20 in Corsica

  • Shutter speed -1/250sec
    • Due to the long focal length, in order to minimise the risk of blurring, a monopod was used
  • F-number -F7.1
  • Metering mode – Partial metering
    • Of the bright image areas
  • Exposure compensation – minus 2 EV
    • Due to the partial metering of the small bright areas being too imprecise, an exposure compensation of – 2EV had to be used
  • Film speed – 100 ISO
  • Focal length – 310.0mm
    • To eliminate unwanted image background, a very narrow image angle and a very long telephoto focal length was used.

 

The following image was captured during a Vespa excursion in the Franconian Jura.

excursion in the Franconian Jura

  • Shutter speed – 1/800sec
  • F-number - F7.1
  • Metering mode – Spot metering
    • Brightness was metered in the bright areas of the flower
  • Exposure compensation – none n/a
    • The camera was able to cope with the range in contrast and thanks to spot metering, no further exposure compensation was required
  • Film speed – 100 ISO

 

The following image was captured in the south of Cuba.

south of Cuba

  • Shutter speed – 1/400sec
  • F-number - F10
  • Metering mode – Multi-zone metering
  • Exposure compensation – minus 1
    • Underexposure for a reduction of the silhouettes
  • Film speed – 100 ISO
  • Focal length – 70.0mm (ca. 105mm 35mm equivalent focal length)

 

The following image was captured in the early hours of the morning in Prague.

early hours of the morning in Prague

  • Shutter speed – 1/200sec
  • F-number - F9
  • Metering mode – Multi-zone metering
  • Exposure compensation – none n/a
  • Film speed – 200 ISO
  • Focal length – 105.0mm (ca. 170mm 35mm equivalent focal length)
  • Operating mode – Manual (MF)

 

The following image was captured in the early hours of the morning in the Bavarian Prealps.

early hours of the morning in the Bavarian Prealps

  • Metering mode – Multi-zone metering
  • Shutter speed – 1/250sec
  • F-number – F7.1
  • Exposure compensation – none n/a
  • Film speed – 200 ISO
  • Focal length – 120.0mm (ca. 180mm 35mm equivalent focal length)

 

The following photograph was captured in India. The archway frames the girl’s silhouette as well as her shadow.

girl’s silhouette as well as her shadow

The photo was captured on reversal film. There is no data for this image. Exposure was metered on the bright areas.

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