Backlit Photography Tips
- A Word About Printing Photos
- Portrait Backlit Photography Tips- Silhouette
- Portrait Backlit Photography Tips - Rim Light/Hair Light
- Still Life Backlit Photography Tips
- Architecture Backlit Photography Tips
- Backlit Photography Tips for Food Photography
- General Backlit Photography Tips
- Recommended Photography Gear
- Canon EOS R5
- Canon EOS R6
- Canon RF 50mm f/1.8 STM
- Canon RF 100mm f/2.8L USM
- Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM
- Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM
- Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8 L IS USM
- Canon RF70-200mm F4 L is USM
- 5-in-1 Reflector Pack
- Strobe Light
photo by A-Tom via iStock
Backlighting adds an extra technique to your ever-expanding skillset. It works for people as well as for a huge number of subjects you’re already photographing, such as nature scenes and architectural subjects.
What is backlighting, and what is involved in making a backlit portrait? Here are some backlit photography tips that can be applied to a backlit portrait, as well as other ideas about using backlight in general.
Table of Contents
A Word About Printing Photos
Photo by sturti via iStock
Before we get into the tips about backlit photos, I want to take a moment to discuss printing the images you create.
I'm not talking about sending the image file to your inkjet printer, either...
All photographers, even beginners, should have an image professionally printed now and again. It's a way to see your work, inspect it, and learn and grow from the process. It's nice to have a print of your work hanging in your home, too!
Where you have to be careful is in the process of selecting a printing company because they are definitely not all equal. We've seen that in our metal print shootouts in 2020 and again in 2021 - some companies rose to the top while others floundered.
The winner of both of our metal print shootouts is Artbeat Studios, and they did so by offering impeccable prints that exude quality from corner to corner. If you're getting into backlit photography (or any other kind of photography for that matter), they're an excellent option for having your images printed.
I'm speaking from experience, too...
I've ordered a bunch of prints from Artbeat Studios over the years, and even though I know what to expect when I unbox the print, I still find my jaw on the floor - the quality is that impressive.
I've mostly ordered metal prints, but Artbeat Studios also offers acrylic, canvas, and paper prints, all of which you can order in an array of sizes (even custom sizes!).
Artbeat Studios uses the finest materials, the best printing processes, and offers free shipping to boot. It's an ideal combination! Add in affordable prices, and you have the makings of the ideal printing partner for your images.
See for yourself by visiting Artbeat Studios today!
Portrait Backlit Photography Tips- Silhouette
photo by BERKO85 via iStock
The silhouette is one of the oldest forms of portraiture. Examples can be found all the way back to early civilization art. The cameo is basically a silhouette, so you probably have a really good idea of the general thought behind the technique.
A true silhouette is created by placing the subject between the camera and a strong light source. That strong light source can be the Sun if outside, or a window, flash, or studio light if indoors. You would calculate the exposure for the light itself instead of the subject. Careful camera placement can avoid unwanted lens flare or creatively add it in if desired.
photo by jeffbergen via iStock
As an extra part of these backlit photography tips, making it a partial silhouette is a great method for adding drama and importance to a backlit portrait subject. This can be accomplished by adjusting the exposure so that the subject facing the camera position has more exposure or by using reflectors or extra lights to the side of the subject or closer to the camera.
Portrait Backlit Photography Tips - Rim Light/Hair Light
photo by Ranta Images via iStock
A variation of backlit photography tips for portraits involves rim light or a hai rlight. It can be extreme, subtle, or anywhere in between. The outdoor backlit portrait shown above uses a very subtle approach to the hair light or rim light idea, adding in just enough of it with careful subject and camera placement plus either a reflector or a fill flash.
A hair light is most often placed above the portrait subject and can be moved off-center so that it isn’t directly behind them. A variation of this idea for backlit photography tips is called rim lighting. Essentially the same thing but with the light source closely resembling what would be used for a silhouette. See the image below for that style of lighting used all by itself.
photo by Михаил Руденко via iStock
Rim lighting can be used for all kinds of subject matter, such as small product photography or close-up photography. It works exceptionally well as one part of a multi-light setup. As an extra to this part of these backlit photography tips, portable LED lights work wonderfully for ease of changing the configuration of your lights.
Still Life Backlit Photography Tips
photo by KMQ via iStock
Now that you have covered rim lighting and full or partial silhouettes as backlit photography tips, you can start applying the ideas to subjects other than portraits. Still life photography will allow you to hone your skills with backlighting and also is beneficial for small product photography.
photo by BrianAJackson via iStock
Using backlit photography tips such as rim lighting, you can separate the subject matter from the background, which can add an air of romance, such as in the violin shown above, or emphasize certain aspects of the small product or what it is used for.
This can work for a simple product illustration image when balanced with your standard lighting configurations but can especially add to the impact of a lifestyle image. Clients who need images of their stuff to post online often look for a lifestyle type of image to create a lasting impression of their merchandise, so it’s a good idea to show them you can provide that extra value.
Architecture Backlit Photography Tips
photo by 1111IESPDJ via iStock
Some of the prettiest images of architecture are backlit or partially backlit. The reasons are similar to backlit portraits and the other backlit photography tips already listed, it separates the subject from the background, adds importance to the subject, or it can lend an air of romance or elegance to that subject.
With some subjects, such as a tall building, it’s a simple process to capture it as a backlit image. Just walk around to put the Sun behind your intended architectural subject. For other subject ideas, such as the windmills pictured above, you may need to plan out your photo trek around a time when the Sun is lower in the sky.
This method adds in the extra benefit of putting you in the Golden Hour for outdoor photography. Additionally, you can easily transfer these ideas to natural subjects such as trees, rock formations, flowers, and the like.
Backlit Photography Tips for Food Photography
photo by KucherAV via iStock
Applying backlit photography tips to food photography will put you in a great position to create beautiful images of food, wine, produce, and the like in a way that will make your images stand out from the standard “look at my lunch” social media post.
photo by anna avdeeva via iStock
One of the aspects of food photography that many beginners struggle with is that gorgeous steam rising from a hot beverage or plate of food. Using your backlit photography tips such as rim lighting will have you capturing these alluring views left and right.
If you’re thinking about jumping into paid food photography, having these types of images in your portfolio is an eye-catcher for potential clients. Try it out at home with various strengths of backlight, side light, and front light to see how each relates to making that food image look amazing.
General Backlit Photography Tips
photo by kostolom via iStock
Along with the backlit photography tips concerning camera, subject, and lighting placement, you also need to know how best to meter and focus for your desired images.
Generally speaking, you probably want to turn off some of the extra automation such as evaluative metering or dynamic area autofocus. If you’re using those camera functions at all, be in as much control as you can.
The spot metering function of your camera can often provide you with a good exposure for backlighting, and the focus lock button or back button AF can also be used effectively. A lot of times, though, you’ll want to adjust these settings manually.
Using these backlit photography tips will put you on the path for capturing great-looking images of people, places, and things.