Have you seen a lot of beautiful backlit pictures and just fell in love with the beautiful warm tones you see in the pictures but failed many times when you tried to do the same thing in your sessions? Well, I hope this simple tutorial will give you some great tips on how to create beautiful backlit pictures.
I think every photographer that does backlit photography has their own way of doing things but here is my way of creating those beautiful backlit pictures.
Best time for the shoot – Backlit photography requires that the sun and the light is on the back of your subject so that means that you will have to shoot very early in the morning, right after the sun rises or late in the evening before the sunsets. There is not an exact time as the time when the sun sets and rises will change with each season. Sometimes you have to start your session around 7 (early summer) but then in the fall when the time changes and the day gets shorter you might hate to start your session around 4:30 as the sun will set by 6:30.
Spot Metering – You will have to set your camera on Spot Metering that way the camera will read the light from your subject’s face rather the the overall light in the background.
Source of light – A big misconception about backlit photography is that you just have to worry about the light in the back of your subject and even though that is very, very important in order to get those beautiful skin tones and have your subject’s eyes have beautiful catch lights you also have to be aware of the light behind you. If you are in an area that has lots of trees behind you, you will find it very disappointing that even though the background looks well lit your subject’s face is very dark. To avoid that you will need to look for open shade areas and by that I mean an area with some trees behind your subject, to block some of the sun light but not all of the light. You need just the right amount of trees to let the sun peek through the leaves. Now behind you will need an area where there are no trees, an area with a very wide open field so the beautiful light from the sky will reflect on your subjects face. If you can’t find those spots this is where you have to start using a reflector and you will need an extra pair of hands to do that. With children as they are moving so fast, I choose not to use reflectors but rather to go hunting and find just the right spot to do my sessions.
Shade is good – Open shade that is. Don’t be afraid to place your subject in the shade. Look for the spot where the shade meets the bright light from the sun and position your subject in the shade but watch that the hair is getting just that soft kiss from the sun. Your in camera pictures might not show that you have enough sun but that’s where the Bohemian Symphony Collection will come the rescue. If you were able to get just the softest touch of sun kiss on your subjects hair, run some of the magical actions I have created and you will be amazed how the sun will intensify in post production.
Exposure – As I mentioned before you wanna make sure you have your camera set on Spot Metering and you will have to set your exposure based on your subject’s face. Yes the background will be blown out a bit but we don’t have to worry about that. Our focus is on the subject and that’s all we have to worry about.
Camera Settings – Like anything in photography the answer to this is: It depends. It really depends on what type of feeling are you trying to go for in your picture. Do you want your pictures to tell a story? Then you will have to have your aperture set to the highest value number f/22, f/16, f/11
(very small aperture opening) so that the whole scene will be in focus. Do you want to isolate the subject from your background? Do do that you will need to set your aperture to a very low value number f/1.4, f/1.6, f/1.8, f/2.0, f/2.8 (very wide aperture opening ). A great book to understand how to get the right exposure and to understand the relationship between Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO is Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson.
Eliminate Flare – Unless you want to be very creative and love flare in your pictures you will have to make sure that when you take the picture there is no flare that will fall on your subjects face or skin. Again you can take a few creative shots with the fun sun flare, but most people love to see the crispy clear eyes and don’t like the very faded images when the sun comes full force into your lens. To eliminate this you need to position your subject in front of a tree, or any other object that breaks the strong light from the sun. Backlit photography doesn’t mean that the sun has to be right behind the subject so don’t be afraid to move to the right or to the left until the sun is just right and will not come full force into your lens. To practice, I suggest to do this with a doll and a chair. You could just do it with a chair but if you have a doll you can also learn about the skin tones. It’s easier to practice with a doll as they really are sooo patient with you. Of course it would be great to have a real model but I was so intimidated at first trying to
get so many things right that I just wanted to take my time, sit down look at my images in the camera and not be worry that the other person or my daughter would be bored out of their mind.
Practice – Last but not least practice. Backlit photography is not something you can just learn by reading. Practice makes perfect. Practice, Practice, Practice. Each season, spring, summer, fall, winter you will see that even if you
use the same field you will have to be creative and watch on how the sun is moving in the sky and make the necessary changes where you position your subject according to the sun.
I learned this the hard way when I went into the same spot that I do a lot of my sessions and good thing this photo shoot was with my daughter. I knew it worked great in the past just to find out that the sun was all over her face instead of being right behind her I put her in the a spot that
I did not take into account that as we move into fall the sun will not be on the same spot in the sky. Something I never had to think before but with practice I learned to handle this issue too.
Post production – A huge part of backlit photography will also be influenced on how you edit those beautiful pictures so that all those beautiful golden tones will be revealed in post productions. After being asked numerous times what’s my secret to my editing style I decided to create a very unique, different and powerful set of actions that will help all of you that love shooting backlit photography.
That’s how Bohemian Symphony was born; A set of 33 bright and bold actions that will help you take your pictures from boring to fabulous.
You can learn more about this actions HERE
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