Monday, 15 September 2014

Lynne Atkinson - Backlighting

One of my favourite things to do on a summer's evening is to take a walk along the dee where we live with my kids. I've been taking them on this walk for years, ever since I began to shoot manually, as my fascination with backlighting drove me to practise whenever the opportunity arose.

Although backlighting can be achieved at any point of the day, the best time of day when the sun is out is the golden hour, an hour before sunset or an hour after sunrise, when the sun is at its lowest. I love the backlit effect as it gives your subject a lovely glow from behind and creates distance between the subject and the background. It can also produce a certain hazy mood which I adore!

The first few times I tried this it was a nightmare. I found it almost impossible to focus on the subject with the glare in my lens, let alone reading the meter to get correct exposure. What resulted were images which were very often out of focus, bleached out and with lens flare obscuring the subject. I soon figured out that where I was going wrong was having the sunlight directly behind my subject, and that this wasn't necessary when looking to achieve this effect. As you can see in this shot I took at the beach of my husband and youngest daughter, the mood is achieved without the direct glare of the sun.

If preferring to have the sun more directly behind your subject, you can get your exposure and focus set by getting down in a position whereby the subject temporarily blocks the sun, then back into position when the settings are correct. I spot meter on the darkest part of the face, as well as over expose, as the face is inevitably going to be dark in comparison to the bright light behind the subject. It is useful to look for natural reflectors to fill light on the dark face, in the form of having light coloured walls behind you or even wearing a white top will help, but otherwise you can use a reflector to bounce the light back int the subjects faces. Fill in flash can also be used, but at a low setting to keep it as natural as possible.

Another good tip is to have the sun diffused by large objects such as trees. Or in the case of the featured image I used reeds, which help to hide the sun from the lens.

Photography is all about lighting, and this is just one small area in such a vast field. There are so many more techniques with backlighting which can be explored including creating a starburst effect with the sun, but I feel this is worthy of a blog all by itself.

Lynne Atkinson - Alice Rose Portraits

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