Part 7: Creating a magical atmosphere by taking a backlit photo
When it comes to the topic of taking photos, there might have been someone who told you not to take a photo against the light. Well, this sometimes is a good advice to adhere to if you are a beginner. However, most of the best works of art came into being when someone broke a rule, have they not? ;-) This article is to explain you how to take great photos by braking the rules.
Photo by francolaria [via Flickr]
Why you should turn against the light
But why should you make the whole topic of taking photos more difficult by ignoring its easiest rules? That is simple enough to answer: By taking a photo against the light, you will make it more expressive and provide an atmosphere. Anything looks quite different: interesting shadows occur and objects can be shown as mysterious silhouettes. Unusual textures like the fragility of leaves, plants or insects are revealed and become obvious.
Photo by Jenny Downing [via Flickr]
Another great feature is the marking of light that persons or objects are provided with on photos taken backlit. Such marking has a particular beautiful effect when it circles fine and fibrous things like hairs or gras. This way, your photo gets an especially magical atmosphere that is enraptured of the everyday life.
Photo by Victor Bezrukov [via Flickr]
Avoiding lens flare
Anyones knows the problem of photos with small and bigger circles having an orange or yellow mark. If the sun shines directly into your lens, the light breakes within it and is reflected on its sides. Those reflections appear as circles on the final photo which has an effect on its focus – sometimes this isintended but sometimes it is not.
Photo by Shandi-lee [via Flickr]
Zoom lenses are more affected by that problem than fixed focal lengths. If you own a reflex camera you can solve the problem with a lens shade that is put on the lens. It protects the lens from light coming in sideways and this way reduces the risk of a lens flare. Additionally, it improves the colour saturation. Unfortunately, if you own a compact camera, there is no similar solution for the problem of a lens flare. However, you may try to shield your camera sideways with your hand which might already help a bit.
A difficult matter: the correct lighting for backlight
People saying you simply should not take a backlit photo is caused by the most difficult problem of photography. Due to the strong light from the background, it is particularly difficult to make background and foreground discernible in an equally good way. The camera focuses on the brightest area and tries to expose it in an optimal way. But this causes the darker areas (in this case, the image in the foreground) to be shown too vaguely which is very annoying because the details are lost this way.
Compact cameras as well as reflex cameras have the option of an exposure correction. Most often, the exposure correction can be used by pressing a small button with the +/- symbol in order to deliberately expose a photo in a lighter or darker way. So in order to make the foreground of your photo brighter, you can set the exposure one or two levels higher. But of course, this also causes those areas already being bright to get even brighter. That is why you should figure out in advance which part is more important to you.
You can do better by using a flash or a reflector that reflects the light backwards onto the image (for example, a white cardboard or something similar). This way, your photo is not influenced that much completely.
Photo by Sean McGrath [via Flickr]
Another option you have, is to make the camera do a so called spotmetering instead of the usual segmented metering. Many cameras enable you to decide yourself which mode your camera shall use to identify the situation of light. If you use the spotmetering, the viewfinder is focused on the dark areas of the photo in order to achieve that your camera knows that those areas have to be exposed correctly. If you want to produce a silhouette image on purpose, you can focus the spotmetering on the brighter areas.
Photo by Clemens v. Vogelsang [via Flickr]
Last but not least, we have an advice for you concerning the choice of your image: You should not take a photo with your camera pointed directly into the sun because this way even your lens (and your eye as well if you look through the viewfinder) could be damaged. Instead, choose your motive in a way that makes the sun be just outside your photo. Another option that leads to a great result is to take photos while the sun is momentarily covered, for example by a building or a tree.
Photo by francolaria [via Flickr]
Here, you can find more great examples for taking backlit photos . Enjoy them!