Week 2 Module Backlit Beauty
What an exciting week we’ve had in our Photography Tribe! Thanks to the tribe members who posted their macro photos online. Watch out for the Editor’s Picks post later this week from last week’s module.
It’s time for another module! This week, our theme is Backlit Beauty. The complete module will go over the following topics: how direction of light affects the way your image looks, how to use spot metering, how to read a histogram, and how to use exposure compensation to make an image brighter or darker. You choose how complex your module this week will be!
If you learn to recognize a backlit situation, that alone would be a good goal for this module!
The key to making backlit images is understanding the direction of the light and the effect it has on the subject.
Below is a diagram that summarizes a backlit situation.
Notice the following:
- The light source is directly behind the subject.
- The camera is in front of the subject, facing the light source.
- One of the effects of backlighting is the haloing of light around the rim of the subject, tracing its contours. This is called “rim light.”
What Equipment to Use
The good news about this module is that you can use any camera and lens outfit. The decision about which focal length to use depends on the subject you choose to photograph.
A flexible lens like the kit lens of most dSLRs works just fine, giving you a range of subjects you can photograph. A prime lens like a 50mm works well, too. In case you want to be sure about the lens you use, here’s a primer on how the choice of lens you use affects the type of images you can make.
How to Shoot Backlit Subjects
1. When you find your subject, move around it so that the position of the subject or camera in relation to the light source puts the light source behind the subject (See illustration above).
2. Set your camera’s metering mode to Spot metering. Then, move your focus point to a position on the edge of the subject. Take a test shot.
3. Check your image or histogram. If the light is bright, the subject should have pronounced midtones and shadows. If the light is too bright, the histogram will show a high point to the right. But most of the histogram should fall in the middle. Here is a video explaining how to use the histogram to make a good exposure from Michael the Maven:
4. If the image looks too bright or too dark, move your exposure compensation button to the “plus” side to lighten it up, or to the “minus” side to darken it.
Here are two images showing you what happens when you use exposure compensation with a backlit subject. Picture A is without compensation. Notice that the contrast between the background and the subject is not pronounced, and the background light has clipped highlights. Picture B had exposure compensation of one stop (plus 1). The shadows are darker, and the midtones are more even, but there is more contrast in the photo. In this situation, I liked the darker photo more because the increased contrast allows the subject to ‘pop out.’
More Learning Resources for Module 2:
Exposure compensation from Gavin Hoey
Metering modes from SLRLounge
What Can You Shoot?
Backlighting and different subjects
You can shoot pretty much any subject this week. The important thing is to notice the direction of the light and learn what you can do to make a good resulting image with this type of lighting!
If you want to journey with me as I rekindle my love for all kinds of photography in 2012, and learn lots of things along the way, head on over to our new Facebook page (and like us!), where you can participate in project modules, get some feedback, talk photography, and have your photography featured in a monthly roundup!
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