Friday, February 27, 2009

Tips on dealing with backlighting

Zebra Longwing against blown out sky

"Backlighting" just means that there's light behind your subject. An example of this would be lining your friends up in front of a sunset to take their photo -the sun would be behind your friends, so they'd be backlit.

What happens with a typical backlighting situation is that your camera sees all that light aimed towards it, so it makes the photo darker to compensate for the excess light. The problem is, the part you want exposed properly is in shadow because of all the light coming from behind, so when the camera darkens the photo, your subject comes out almost black.

There are a few ways to fix this. You can:
* Meter off of your subject instead of metering the whole scene.
* Use exposure compensation to brighten the photo.
* Use fill flash for portraits and other photos where your subject
is small enough and close enough for it to be effective

How these changes effect your background:
If you choose to meter off your subject or use exposure compensation to brighten them, remember that you'll be brightening the entire photo. This was what I intended for the butterfly shot at the top of this post, I wanted the sky to go white behind it. But, for sunset shots this will wash out the beautiful colors of your sunset. For portraits in front of sunsets, use flash. This will balance the light of the sun with the light of your flash and will allow more color to be kept in the sunset.


Louis Dean said...

I have Sony alpha 100 sLr camera. How do I meter my subject without the camera reading the backlight? Even the flash reads the backlight instead of the subject.

Erica said...

Look in your camera manual to see if it has "spot" metering.