Finding the Light: Backlighting Your Subject | Part 6

February 6, 2015

Oh hey there! Here we are in part 5 of my series. Oh, you thought I wasn’t going to finish it, did you!? Well…I scared myself into thinking I wasn’t going to finish it, so thank goodness here we are now! 

If you haven’t read the rest of my series, catch up here:

1. When to Find the Light

2. How to Find Light in the Shade

3. How to Find the Light in the Shade with a Backlit Subject

4. How to Find the Light in an Open Field of Sunlight

5. How to Find the Light on a Cloudy Day

My fifth topic was supposed to be on shooting inside. But because a good chunk of the time that you shoot inside requires flash or shooting at a high ISO, I decided to opt out of that topic and further cover a previous topic. There are so many scenarios of shooting inside that I feel like a whole other series would be appropriate. 

That leads me to this post on backlighting to wrap up our series. I had a question from a reader that went further in depth on my second post on shooting in the shade while backlighting your subject. 

Her question was:

“I couldn’t quite find those spots for having a little bit of light in the shade. Is it like a hole in the branches that only touches the back of the subject’s head?”

Below is an example of placing your client in the shade with the sun hitting the back of their head. They were taken about 10 minutes before sunset, so it was definitely peak time for golden hour. Both images are straight out of the camera (SOOC), so that you can see the difference.  The edited versions are at the end of the post. 

1. I was sure to place her in the shade.

2. I faced her away from the sun to aim for the effect I desired. This allowed even exposure on her pretty face.

3. I moved her around until I saw that dreamy light on her hair and said, “stop!”. 🙂

4. I shifted my camera up, down, smidge to the left and right (whatever I needed) to hide the sun behind a branch (for photo on right). For the photo on the left, I did not.

The point I want to make here is that by moving ever-so-slightly you can dramatically change the style or effect of your image. These are what you could call two different styles.

The difference between the two:

The image on the left has some sunlight that is directly hitting my lens. Whereas, the image on the right does not; a branch is blocking this sunlight from entering.

LEFT: This image is definitely sun-kissed without the sun being obstructed, or blocked, by the branch. It’s not all the time light will come into the camera so softly. A lot of times, it’ll be too harsh even when you’re standing to the side. Take note that this was taken about 10 minute before the sun set, so lighting was so sweet and soft! Score!

RIGHT: The one on the right is has darker darks and is a little more crisp, because I hid the sun behind the branch. You can still tell that the sun was kissing the back of her head, as her hair is “on fire”. Once again, score!

You can tell that I didn’t take a step. I didn’t move much. Everything in both images are still roughly in the same spot, so this shows you how minimally I shifted my camera. This is what I mean by placing your subject in the shade and moving either 1) your client around or 2) yourself around to nail that effect you want. 

Below are the two images after post-processing. I tend to find myself choosing the photo on the right to edit, but again, that’s purely preference! Whatever you feel your style is, go for it and keep on keepin’ on! 

To answer the second part of her question: 

Yes, there was a wide gap that the sun was peaking through. I just hid some of it briefly by a branch. However, in the image below, the sun is directly behind my subject, not off to an angle. The branches simply diffuse the light while she’s standing in the shade yet still backlit. If I had moved her forward a few steps, I probably would have lost the light on the back of her head. It all depends on the angle the sun is aiming as it’s setting.

I’m hoping this might better address how you can use objects, trees, buildings, etc. to obstruct harsh sun from coming into your images. It’s not 100% of the time that it makes it looks so dreamy like this!

The best thing you can do is get out there and try it! Am I beating a dead horse with that?? Perhaps try it on someone you feel confident with and can make them your guinea pig model. 😉

Above all, have fun. It was really enjoyable for me to write this lighting series. It’s funny how much you learn from just putting your experience into words. I appreciated all the feedback and encouragement throughout. I’m definitely open for answering more questions, if I’m able, so shoot me a specific one, and you may just find it on the blog! 




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Leave a comment

Copyright Lindsay Davenport Photography | branding + Site design by b is for bonnie design

Lindsay Davenport is a newborn and motherhood photographer + educator based in Dallas and available for travel worldwide.

back to top >>

the mom hub

take me there >>

all my best resources for mamas

course portal

log in >>

log into your student account below