Basic Techniques In Shooting Backlit

6/21/2013 5:47:31 PM

To be able to perform shooting backlit, place behind the objects a light source and instead of metering the subjects as normal, metering in light areas of the image.

Backlit photos (silhouette) are the pictures created by dark cubes that stand out from the light background. Specifically, in a backlit photo, the subject of the picture will look like a black cube that was removed details to create a strong contrast with the bright frame.

Backlit sample photo

Backlit sample photo

To be able to perform backlit techniques, you simply need to place your subject so that the light comes from the rear side of the subject; and instead of metering the subject as usual, you will have to measure bright areas of the picture. This will make the subject to be underexposed and became a black cube stands out from the frame.

Down below are some basic techniques for shooting backlit, which have been compiled from a number of websites and prestigious photography forums:

Background light for subjects

In backlit images, the easiest way to create background light is to put the subject so that the sunlight comes from the rear side of the subject. Note, the more perpendicular is the sun with the sample, the more easily you create a backlit photo with strong contrast.

Sample picture

Sample picture

Similar to other shooting techniques, the best time to take the shot of this genre is at dawn or when the sun begins to set. Of course, it can also be easy to create a backlit photo right in your own home by placing a light source behind the subject; or you can use the natural light from the windows.

The subject for backlit photos

Any object can be used as a subject in backlit photos. However, to get the beautiful shot that impressed the viewers, you should choose objects that are cube-shaped or objects that have clear contour - as once get on the image, all internal details or colors would be completely eliminated.

Background Metering

For a backlit photo, select to meter one of the bright areas of the background instead of metering directly into the subject. To do this, you just need to simply point the lens into the light and contrast areas, then press the shooting button so that the camera can meter automatically and give corresponding aperture / speed specifications. Once you have these apertures and speed values, remember them to set them correctly back in the Manual mode then. If you already have a little experience in photographing and love full manual mode, you can measure the background brightness and then press the lock button and then re-layout the frame.

Capture automatically or manually customize

Most modern cameras are equipped with automatic exposure system with high precision to ensure that the subject of the photo is bright enough. However, because of being so "smart", users will face a little trouble when the camera automatically brighten the subject - in stark contrast to make the subject overexposed in silhouette shooting

Sample picture.

Sample picture

Therefore, if you use the Auto mode or Semi-Auto mode, you must press the shutter button lightly and keep on holding the button while trying to re-layout the picture, and then press the button heavily to take the shot. With most modern cameras, you can take backlit photo in this way. However, the photos are sometimes not really sharp if using autofocus mode.

With full manual mode, the simplest way is to use the aperture parameters and speed that the camera calculated when metering the background in Auto mode. If the subject was not really dark as desired, continue to clock 1 or 2 aperture; or you can also use the "bracketing" feature so that the camera can capture automatically in several different exposure levels.

Turn the flash off

Remember to turn the Flash off if you want to take backlit photo

Remember to turn the Flash off if you want to take backlit photo

Light from the flash integrated on the camera will light up the subject and ruin your backlit photo. So, always remember to turn off the flash, especially when you use the auto mode.


A beautiful backlit photo should also have a good layout. The harmony between subject and background helps your photo looks more interesting and far more attractive. Photographers can take advantage of the surroundings such as window frames, roof or canopy to make the photo looks more vivid, closer to viewers.


Sample picture

Sample picture

In photography, to get a nice photo, in addition to the layout, the sharpness is also a very important factor. If you use the autofocus mode when shooting backlit, you will inevitably encounter difficulties as the subject does not have a good contrast ratio; or when metering the background and using the auto mode.

To solve this problem, you can switch to use the manual focus mode (MF) to focus on the subject before metering the background. Conversely, if you are not confident in your manual focus ability, use a large depth (set at about f/16 aperture) to ensure that the whole scene is always sharp.

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