Creating Drama with Backlight
Professional photographers know the ability to evaluate lightís direction and strength--and how to effectively work with what you have--separates the amateurs from the experts. This developed skill requires us to slow down for a few moments to consider the surroundings and then determine how to use the light to its maximum advantage.
Some photographers shy away from shooting in backlight, which is essentially when the sun or other primary light source is behind the subject. Backlight does pose a few more obstacles than sidelight or front light but it can also create effects simply not possible with more even and Ďsafeí standard light.
Dial Up the Drama: One of the best things about backlight is that it creates a dramatic contrast with your subject. Whether the subject is a wall, a woman or a wave, backlight lends a unique emotional impact.. You can play with silhouettes and shadows by adjusting your subject and your camera angle. Donít shy away from casting shadows on all or part of your subjectís face as this technique can create a compelling vivid image.
Emphasize the Edges: Backlighting is an excellent tool for creating contrast around the edges of a subject or object. For example, backlighting can heighten any item with an interesting silhouette or circumference. A womanís hair can appear wild in the wind while the shadow shields her face, creating an air of mystery. You may have to adjust your position slightly to create the effect you envision, but this is part of experimenting with the craft.
Fun with Flowers: One way to understand the impact of backlighting is to photograph flowers or foliage. If possible, position the lens underneath the flowers and shoot with the light overhead. Youíll notice the way the light impacts the fine veins of the flowers, the edges of the petals and how the light spilling between the petals impacts the overall composition. Backlighting doesnít mean a complete blackout of the subject, which this experiment will demonstrate. Backlighting can bring out a different aspect that escapes other lighting situations.
Never Fear Failure: Backlit images are something that amateur photographers often shy away from, but there is nothing lost through experimenting. In fact, there is much to be gained. Donít be afraid of failing. You might try this technique a dozen times before you get something you like. Thatís the price of mastery--putting your hesitation aside and trying new techniques. Youíre not shooting film--the delete key is free--and every session gives you valuable experience that you simply canít get any other way. Keep trying and experimenting and youíll soon find your backlit images will go from simple to stunning.