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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tuesday Tip: Back-lighting

YES! I am continuing with understanding light in our Tuesday tips!
It is by far one of the biggest reasons for images not turning out the best that they can!

 So - what is Back-lighting? Simply put it is where your subject is in front of a light source. When shooting in Program or Auto your camera can be "fooled" into thinking "there is plenty of light, I don't need a flash, which is where it all goes wrong for your image. Your camera bases the exposure (aperture and shutter speed) on the light it DOES see, not always the light on your SUBJECT.

This is a very common image, when your subject is in front of a window. Another would be outside, where your subject falls to shadow because of the direction of the light behind them. Luckliy this is an easy fix. There are LOTS of ways you can solve this back light situation. Depending on your camera, skill level and of course... gear. The first, and easiest would be - Command your flash ON. (make sure your camera is in a mode that allows this, such as PROGRAM (P) (difference between P and Auto click here)

Your flash doesn't change that your camera is seeing all that light, but it does put enough light on your subject to be able to see them. It also, adds light to the rest of the frame... burning out the outside window as well. Depending on what you "want to see" in your image... this is the easiest solution, as well as the most common. Since I don't care about the grass... but I do care about the two friends sitting together - this works for me.

Another option for you could be utilizing your camera "preset" modes. Sometimes these modes are on a dial, like the one shown typically on DSLR... other times they could be part of a menu system that you would need to push a selection button and hold as you arrow through different options. Check your manual if you don't know your camera, all consumer and most "pro-sumer" (mid-level DSLR's) have these options... somewhere.

This one adjusts the shutter speed (typically) to expose for a background as well as the foreground with a flash. It is best used for Christmas lights in the background, and people in the front. PLUS you REALLY need a tripod if your shooting in darker conditions such as that, as your shutter will be open to expose for the background, then have your flash fire, THEN close... if you want your lights to be clear - you must have a tripod. Now depending on your camera, you may have additional options in your presets, that will do better for outdoors during daylight, or window scenarios. You tend to have more presets in point and shoot camera's the more advanced your camera the less of these you have. You can still use this mode for daylight, but depending on your presets, you may have a better option.

However, if you have a Dslr, or a upper end point and shoot you should have the AE-L button. On most SLR styles its a button around the thumb area on the backside of your camera. It is the Auto Exposure Lock button.  You use this button when you want to shoot without flash, but control how your camera sees light.

So here is our starter image... beautiful subject right? This is straight up no editing etc.
Now, to use your AE-L All I did was point the camera at a shaded spot and push and HOLD the AE-L button (in this case it was the shady wall below the window, if your subject is big enough you can fill the frame with them by walking up to them push and hold your AE-L button and then return to where you want to take the image from (still holding the button, thats the secret). Basically, your telling your camera to expose for THIS lighting situation (the shade) NOT the light coming from the window.

Now, if you want to get "snazzy" you can get into your manual mode, and adjust your aperture, and shutter speed till you come up with the right combo as well. (don't worry if your not there - I personally love the AE-L option and it does a great job!)

So... there you have several solutions to that pesky window and basic back-light issues! Personally, if I can shoot without the flash, especially next to a window or wall where I am likely to get a shadow I prefer the AE-L or Full Manual mode.  However, in the end it is up to you, your camera and what your comfort level is. Just remember, go and practice this now... so you don't have to "think about it" when you need it!


  1. Thanks for the tips, this is a huge problem for me. And I am not a huge fan of photography, so any solutions to make my photo time go smoother and faster are great for me!

    Thanks again,

    1. I'm so happy I can help! If you still have issues with this or other common problems please feel free to email me! vertephoto@gmail.com Chances are if you are having an issue - someone else is too! It could be a great subject for our next Tuesday tip!

  2. New follower. Love the tips. I'm trying to improve my photography so this comes in handy. Thanks!!!

  3. and I see you are participating in the ornament swap! YAYYAYAYA me too :)