How to Shoot Back Lit Images

This Site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

I got to photograph 3 gorgeous sisters last week, and the evening light was just as breathtaking. I thought it was a great time to share images I took, and at the same time give some tips on how to shoot beautiful back-lit images.


backlit imagesThe hour before the sun goes down each evening is often referred to by photographers as the Golden Hour. When the light is shining brightly, it gives the most lovely glow to anything it touches. Backlighting your subjects can be tricky, but with a few simple tips, you’ll soon find you love shooting at this time of day as well. I love the sun.



1. Open Shade

The shot above is taken in an open field, but I chose a spot that was in the shade.  Though you don’t have to go to a shady spot for great back-lit images, I love the look and visual interest the trees give.

2. Tree’s as a diffuser

The sun was hiding just below the tree line in the background, and that is exactly where I like it. The trees work as a sort of diffuser where it lets the light through, but not too much. It looks almost like it’s on fire with the sun beams blurring out the tips of the trees.

backlight photography

backlight flowers

backlight in field

3. Focus/Recompose

Focusing with backlight can be tricky. The automatic focus feature gets confused with the light coming towards you, so I often focus down by the subjects waist, set my focus, then move it up towards their faces. It’s a form of focus/recompose that I talk about in my intermediate photography book, Get Focused. This way it doesn’t take too long to grab the focus, and can capture candid moments without much effort.

backlight beauties

4. Aim Downward

This is a bit easier to work with, as you can still see a bit of the glow on the back of their heads, but they are crouched down and I’m standing up aiming down towards them. Also known as the birds eye view.

bad backlight

5. Sun out of view

In the image above, she was twirling around and accidentally got right in front of the hottest part of the sun that was shining directly at us. This is a commen mistake when taking back-lit images, and really the main light source of the sun is best left just out of the frame. In this case, it washes out the picture and takes the details out of her head. Though with luck, this could be an artistic shot, if she were facing me, I wouldn’t like it because I wouldn’t see her face.

backlight ending

As the sun was starting to go down, you can see it reflects in the warmth of the images. Below, it had pretty much gone all the way down below the trees, and the images are cooler in tone. It doesn’t stop my from taking fun shots like a sister tickle shot, but just no glow.

backlight gone

As with all of my photography, I edit my images in photoshop with a color pop, and you can read all about that in my photo tips section.

I love this close up that I had taken earlier…so beautiful, these girls, and the light really helps to emphasize that point;)

backlight close up

 {Just lovely girls}

backlight end

Any questions about backlighting? Have you practiced this method before?

I’ve got more photography tips, check ’em out!

If you have a fancy camera that you don’t know how to use, check out my books!

If you’d to join the Capturing Joy Photo Club on Facebook, where we have photo challenges, Q&A’s, and image sharing, request to join HERE:

Capturing Joy Photo Club

Join The Discussion



  1. carol says:

    How nice to see one of your photo shoots again! I always love your bluebell season pictures and the girls pink clothes made these photos so colourful.

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Yes, I LOVE that they wore contrasting colors, it looks so fun in the bluebonnets! Thanks, Carol!

  2. The girls are gorgeous and the photos are amazing Kristen! Love!!

  3. Love that last close-up one – great shot! And great post – I really struggle with backlighting, so I enjoyed your tips – thanks!

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Thank you, Mandy!!!

  4. These photos (and girls) are just beautiful! Thank you for the tips! I love the look of backlighting!

  5. Cari says:

    Those images are simply stunning! Wish we had that kind of light in Germany! I’m still holding out hope that the cloud cover will lift one of these days…

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Germany sounds like a fun adventure!!

  6. You managed to squeeze quite a lot of pics out there. I tend to rush around in the last bit of daylight.

    Very nice post 🙂

    • Kristen Duke says:

      They were great models!

  7. Mindy says:

    so sweet!

  8. Stephanie Maxey says:

    When you focus at their waist and then recompose, can you keep it in auto focus? Do you just keep your finger held halfway and then get the shot once you have recomposed? Or is there a different setting that you use when you do this?

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Hmmm, what do I do? I think I keep it held down. I use back button focus, so it isn’t confused with taking the shot. I can also take my hand off and since the focus is “set” it won’t move.

  9. Meghan says:

    Beautiful sisters and lovely pictures. Love your daughters purple wig– what a fun idea!

  10. These photos are so pretty! I’ve tried shooting at this time of day, but I think I need to find more ways to diffuse the light.. Like you mention the shade or the trees. Each time I’ve tried so far they’ve been too blown out, but the tips you shared here should help!

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Keep trying Kassi, you’ll love them when you hit it right!

  11. Tracy says:

    Ok I’m off and running with these tips. I wouldn’t have thought to focus down by their waist first and then move up to their faces. I’m not sure what you mean by using a back button focus, though.

    I need to get my lovely models out this afternoon and practice. Thanks!!

    • Kristen Duke says:

      back button focus is another way to focus. I talk about it in my intermediate book, Get Focused, once you are shooting in manual.

  12. Jelli says:

    Great tips! I’ve been wanting to learn more about photography so that when I finally find someone willing to lend me a DSLR I’ll know basically how to use it. I can’t wait to read more of your photography tips, Kristin! What a pleasure to read and see the images next to one another so I can really tell what you’ve done.

  13. Gorgeous!!!! That time of day makes for the best color tones in pictures! Thank you for all the fun tips!!

  14. Dedy Setiawan says:

    Wonderful pictures, very artistic and really like it.

    Did you use Flash or any reflector to get balance exposure?

    • Kristen Duke says:

      no flash or reflectors! I keep my arsenal as simple as possible.

  15. Dinora says:

    I find this line contradictory:

    Though with luck, this could be an artistic shot, if she were facing me, I wouldn’t like it because I wouldn’t see her face.

    If she were facing you, you wouldn’t see her face? I don’t know what part of the sentence goes with the other part: this could be an artistic shot if she were facing you or if she were facing you, you wouldn’t like it because you wouldn’t see her face? Or this would be an artistic shot, with some sort of luck, something I’d like to know more about, what exactly do you mean, but you wouldn’t like it because you wouldn’t see her face?

    A bit confusing.

    Otherwise, great article. I loved the tip about leaving the Sun out of the shot. So many great photos of this type do exactly this.


  1. […] get lots of quesitons about tips on Shooting backlight images, and though I shared a post on that once, I’m sharing more thoughts over at NYIP, so check it […]