Lighting Up Your Subjects Using the Backlighting Technique

Contre-jour, more commonly known as 'backlighting', is a lighting technique that can add great impact to your images. The light source comes from behind the subject which can cause it to become silhouetted. There is greater contrast between dark and light and shapes and lines become more defined. Certain details can disappear into darkness, such as the body of the subject. However, it can also show the details of a subject's edges such as fur or hair.

Backlighting is not as simple as immediately shooting an object against the light. If not used correctly, you could end up having a lot of overexposed or underexposed shots that you will need to discard. In order to create a great shot, one must learn to play around with the angles of the subject and light intensity. You have to know how to manipulate the light and compose your shot appropriately.

It is advisable to use a lens hood when using backlighting for your shots. This lessens the glare that can be caused by pointing the camera straight into the light. Although the subject is mostly covering the light source, some rays of light can still spill through and possibly burn parts of the image. A lens hood will significantly reduce such glare.

Your aperture settings should be on the smaller side to filter the light. Too large an aperture could overexpose the image. The shutter speed should also be properly set. A slow shutter speed will allow more light through and blow up parts of the shot. Play around with these two settings until you are satisfied with the outcome.

Some subjects are opaque and are completely black when backlit, therefore much detail is lost. This, however, can show off their other attributes such as their shapes and edge details. Other subjects are transparent and allow some of the light to shine through. With these subjects, one can capture intricate details that we normally wouldn't notice.

::A rubber placemat rolled into a cone and backlit by an ordinary flashlight. The spaces between the rubber grid allow the light to shine through to show the details of the mat.::

::A door backlit by the ceiling light from inside the room. There is no detail on the solid wooden door but the doorknob is visible by the rim of light it has caught on its shiny surface. In this shot, the backlighting provides a dramatic effect of eeriness.::

Backlighting is generally used in nature shots such as landscape photography. The sun is a convenient light source to backlight the hills and trees. If used in studio shots, such as portraiture or still life, the objective is usually to give off a dramatic mood.

Other light sources can be a simple table lamp to the more expensive studio lights. It can be a bonfire, a flashlight, or the headlights of a car. You can backlight a big scene such as a mountaintop, or you can go the other extreme and backlight an insect. If used effectively, backlighting is a fantastic way to show off your subjects in a unique light.

This entry was posted on Saturday, July 24th, 2010 at 11:00 am and is filed under Articles, Lighting, Photography Techniques, Photography Tips. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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