Backlighting for Drama

The first in a short series on backlighting, a topic that belongs in your camera craftsmanship bag of tricks.

Often, the most dramatic images are those made when shooting into the sun (back lighting). However, this situation presents much greater exposure challenges than does sun behind you (front lighting) and sun to the side (side lighting). Front lighting is often boring. Side lighting is wonderful for emphasizing texture. Back lighting is in a class of its own for the variety and drama it offers.

An Example – Silhouettes

Silhouettes are obtained by back lighting the subject.

  • Spot or center metering, to properly expose the bright parts, will give a good starting exposure for a silhouette.
  • Beyond there, use the histogram & exposure compensation for fine adjustments.


Common factors in all three images: telephoto lens (between 180-300 mm), ground fog for soft color and eye protection, tripod & knee pads

Here are the importantĀ settings used to make the above:

  • Left f/4.8, 1/6400, 180mm, EV = – 2/3
  • Center f/5.6, 1/1250, 200mm, EV = 0
  • Right f/22, 1/320, 300mm, EV = – 2/3

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