How to Shoot Back Lit Images

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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!

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