Today I am going to revist and update a topic I've covered in the past on my blog: backlighting. Backlighting is my favorite, favorite kind of light. I more often than not choose my shooting locations based on light and I'm always on the look-out for opportunities for backlighting. The above image is a great example of backlighting along with this next image.

I didn't get to set up this shot - the couple was just walking down the aisle - but I did make sure I shot it from the right side of the aisle to make the most of the effect.
What I do to find locations that work well for backlighting is to look for the end of a shady area -- where the shade ends and light begins and where the sun is partially diffused, making it less harsh. Trees and buildings work well for this. Trees are excellent because they can be used to block part of the sun but still let some of it through. I place my subjects' backs to the sun in the spot where the sun is still hitting their heads but the bulk of the background is shaded (this is KEY!). This means that the exposure will be the same on their faces as it is in the background. But instead of it being a flat photo -- like photos that are in full shade -- this scenario creates some nice hair light that separates the subjects from the background and often gives a nice glow to the photo. Check out this super artistic visual I came up with in photoshop that depicts this scenario:
I usually over-expose these types of shots by 1/3 or 2/3 of a stop. I care more about getting the subjects' faces properly exposed and I don't care so much about whether or not the hair light is blown out.

Here is another great example of backlighting:
There was nothing about this background that made this location particularly inviting to shoot in, but the light was perfect for backlighting. You can see how the shade transitions to sun at the subjects' feet -- that's what I'm looking for -- as well as a mostly-shaded background.

Depending on how much light is coming through and where you position yourself you can get some flare or haze in these types of shots. You have to experiment with your positioning while shooting (moving around your subject 90 degrees to the left or 90 degrees to the right) to get different effects. If the sun is nearly directly behind the subject, you may get a hazy effect over their faces.

I made sure not to fully edit these next two images to show you how your positioning can control this haze. In this shot you can see how there is a haze over Aaron and Sarah's faces:
It's still not a bad photo and I can correct for the haze in Photoshop (I use Kevin Kubota's smokeless burn tool to selectively burn in the areas effected). But as I was shooting it, I realized I didn't want that effect in this shot, so I simply moved around them to my left to get this:
- and their faces became much clearer while retaining the effect of the backlighting. So you can see how simply moving your position in relation to the sun can change the amount of haze and flare in the image. At times I WANT a little haze -- it can give a great effect to the image -- just not usually over a subject's face.

Happy shooting everyone! Have fun playing with backlighting!

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