Beautifully backlit photos are dreamy, warm, golden, whimsical…what’s not to love? But there’s more to creating a stunning backlit portrait than finding light and putting it behind your subject.
Click Love Grow Instructor Merissa Wakefield is a master of backlit photography, and she has shared her top 3 secrets for nailing your next shoot!
1. Balance Your Exposure
When taking backlit photos, it can be really tricky to expose your subject correctly so that you don’t blow the highlights or end up with your subject in too much shadow.
So to have the correct exposure, you can choose to shoot at a time of day when the natural light isn’t too strong. Then, position your subject where you get a slightly diffused beautiful golden backlight and use your metering (or your eye) to find that sweet spot. This will help you make the image really shine in editing.
Backlighting is one of the scenarios where shooting raw and editing is a key part of achieving the final look.
The sweet spot comes between maintaining detail in your highlights and not underexposing your subject too much.
An easy way to avoid this problem is to position the sun so it’s behind foliage or trees and allowed to filter through. In this image below there’s a lot less sky to blow out, making it a less tricky situation than the one above, but no less beautiful as that light coming through the trees creates incredible bokeh and subtle haze.
The sun is low in the sky, and the family are positioned close to the trees. The sun peeks through a large gap creating some haze, whilst the dense foliage on the right creates gorgeous bokeh.
When shooting backlit photos, your subject can end up with their faces in too much shadow, losing detail in their eyes.
So always aim to capture light in their eyes to illuminate them and ensure their eyes don’t lose their sparkle. And when backlit, you can do this by ensuring you have a big open expanse of sky behind you to bounce light back onto them.
You can really get creative and artistic by letting in some lens flares and haze. Leave off your lens hood to capture this effect. To control the intensity of both haze and flares, sometimes it takes just a very slight change in your lens position, or you can cup the lens with your hand. If you want to avoid it altogether, use a lens hood and avoid shooting directly into the sun.
Play with haze and lens flares for a dreamy effect – the trick is ensuring they don’t completely obscure your subject’s features or distract.
That golden haze captured at the top of frame conveys a sense of magic in the distance.
Merissa Wakefield is a Click Love Grow Advanced Grad, Instructor, and professional family photographer based in Melbourne, Australia. Check her stunning work atMerissa Wakefield Photography.
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