Photo tip: back lighting your image

Back lighting tip with flower imagery

Back lighting tip with flower imagery

Photo tip: back lighting your image

This is a series of photography tips that I am introducing weekly on my photo blog to help you with a new focused tip to work to master your camera and photography. Today our focus is on back lighting your subject.   Back light happens when the sun or some lighting source is directly in front of you and lights up the subject from behind.  Great effects can be created with translucent imagery like flowers which are delicate, thin and creates a glowing effect like the image above. The overall image is brighter and more dynamic with a darker background that make the subject pop.  Just make sure when you try this technique that you avoid any glare or flare-ups occurring to your camera lens and distracts from the overall image. But. you can also choose to break the rules and include those flares in a creative way that adds to the overall composition.



Keep the background imagery very simple and even blurry with a short depth of field by changing your aperture to any of the smaller setting on your dial. Creating a sharp focus on your subject with a soft background brings out the best highlight features in back lighting and beautiful lighting accents. If you do not have a DSLR, many point and shoot cameras have special camera modes, just find the correct option that lets you choose close up or smaller depth of field mode.



Consider how you want to present your foreground image. Do you want to create a tight study or a larger panoramic shot? There are many options to back lighting and how it creates an overall impact and composition depending on how you want present your subject. In the photograph below the skyline ends up in a silhouette when the sunrise comes up behind the cityscape in the foreground. When the time frame for shooting your subject is limited like the image below, move quickly and try to find different angles or ways to present your subject when the lighting keeps changing. There maybe a golden opportunity if you wait for just the right moment to happen and when it does, make sure you have your camera ready to shoot and capture that moment.



San Francisco sunrise - a scenic Panorama

San Francisco sunrise – a scenic Panorama



Consider how you can compose your image when it is being back-lit because there is a higher potential of the imagery having flares or sharp unflattering light on your subject and projecting out into the composition. Move your camera around and try different angles so you can capture the lighting well. As I mentioned above, you can also break rules and include the flares depending on how it adds to the overall imagery. The point is to experiment, take pictures in different and unexpected angles and you may find something that works really well with your subject.



Use a polarizing filter to decrease reflections and flares from the light source coming from behind the subject.  You can also work around this by walking around the subject to find a spot that is successful in blocking out unwanted flares and still high lighting your subject.


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11 Responses to Photo tip: back lighting your image

  1. docowen June 12, 2016 at 7:05 am #

    Very good tip thanks!

  2. Heather July 24, 2014 at 11:17 am #

    I just recently starting playing around with backlighting here in Riga. Since the sun doesn’t set until 10 pm it’s been kind of hard to avoid. My shots look nothing like yours, though, so clearly I need more practice 🙂

  3. DJ Yabis | Dream Euro Trip July 21, 2014 at 3:34 pm #

    I love that sunset photo

  4. Mary @Green Global Travel July 20, 2014 at 4:27 pm #

    Great photo tip. The flower photo is fantastic!

  5. Theodora July 18, 2014 at 5:34 pm #

    Do you just leave the exposure settings on auto, Noel? Or do you need to manage the exposure as well while you’re doing this?

    • Noel July 19, 2014 at 4:39 am #

      I always play with the exposure based on the light if it is too much or too little on the viewfinder, also I take bracketed shots and HDR

  6. Lillie - @WorldLillie July 16, 2014 at 5:23 pm #

    Super useful. I’ve always thought that backlighting is “bad,” but now I see how it can be used to a photographer’s advantage. Great shots!

  7. Gran Canaria Local July 15, 2014 at 4:34 pm #

    We fell in love with San Francisco on our visit. But we don’t remember it looking that good. Well done for capturing it in all its glory.

  8. Sand In My Suitcase July 14, 2014 at 7:49 am #

    It was certainly a golden opportunity for taking your San Francisco picture :-). We’ll try more backlighting photos – we’re so used to the easier shots of light behind us or sideways, that we forget to try to take backlighting pictures (except sunset ones).

  9. wandering educators July 13, 2014 at 10:07 am #

    ooh, i love that cityscape one!

  10. Marilyn Armstrong July 11, 2014 at 2:29 pm #

    Backlighting is one of my favorite techniques, especially when I keep turn the foreground into silhouettes. Great work 🙂

I look forward to hearing from you and continuing our discussion with any comment you would like to add

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