Quick Tips: How to shoot backlit portraits
In today's Quick Tips, we look at a tricky portrait technique - but one that pays off when done right. Here's how to shoot backlit portraits
While shooting directly into the sun is considered undesirable, many portrait photographers do it to backlight their subjects for dramatic results. The golden glow created by rim lighting around a subject’s head and lens flare effects can be used in a creative way to enhance images. When used subtly, it can add a romantic, dreamy feel to spring and summer portraits.
The best thing about getting outdoors and making the most of natural light is that it’s free. One of the advantages of this technique is not having to worry about your subject squinting or capturing any unflattering shadows on their face. For the best results shoot late afternoon, ideally 30 minutes to an hour before the sun goes down.
- Shooting into the sun will confuse your meter, which will compensate for the bright light by underexposing your subject. Use manual mode, spotmeter your subject and be prepared to overexpose them.
- If you don’t like the washed-out look and lens flare, use a lens hood and position your subject in front of something that can filter the light, such as trees, foliage or tall grasses, to reduce the amount of haze.
- If you want artistic flare, ditch the lens hood. Use your subject to block the majority of the sun, then position yourself off to one side to allow a little light to creep out and hit your lens.
- The camera’s autofocus system may be fooled by the backlight and struggle to lock focus. Switch to manual focus and tweak the focus yourself. Stay at the same distance from your subject if you need to recompose.