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Backlighting Photo Tip – Comox Valley Photographer

There are a lot of things to think about in photography, but one of the big ones is lighting. And to narrow it down a little for today’s post, I want to talk about the technique of backlighting. By putting the subject between your camera and the light, a range of possibilities emerge.

The technique of backlighting can be used in the field or studio to great effect. In this photo, using the sunlight as the source, the canoe and the canoeists are profiled as black silhouettes against the silvery surface of the Yukon River.

 (Gordon Ross)

Metering is important in backlighting. In this case, it was quite simple. I knew that the subject was substantially darker than the river, so I metered (using the Evaluative Metering option on a Canon 5D Mark 2) off the water’s surface ensuring that the water would be properly exposed. In so doing, the canoeists remained in the shadow area of the tonal spectrum.

If I had metered on my subject (using the Spot Metering option of the 5D), the camera would have tried to expose the canoeists correctly resulting in the water being an unpleasantly blown-out highlight. That would have been ugly. The camera settings were ISO 100, 400 mm focal length, shot at f10, 1/2000 th of a second — yes, it was noon-hour bright.

There are many ways to work with backlighting, some of which can be fantastically dramatic and revealing. I’ll come back to the subject next week by using a studio example where a backlight and a fill light were used together to obtain a powerful effect.

Bye for now.

Gordon Ross

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