ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Backlit Photography Tips

Updated on February 7, 2017
LuisEGonzalez profile image

I enjoy photography and have been doing so professionally and independently for over 30 years.

Sand Dollar

CC BY-SA 3.0
CC BY-SA 3.0 | Source

"Backlighting refers to the process of illuminating the subject from the back. In other words, the lighting instrument and the viewer are facing towards each other, with the subject in between. This causes the edges of the subject to glow, while the other areas remain darker. The backlight can be a natural or artificial source of light. When artificial, the back light is usually placed directly behind the subject in a 4-point lighting setup.

A back light, which lights foreground elements from the rear, is not to be confused with a background light, which lights background elements (such as scenery).

In the context of lighting design, The back light is sometimes called hair or shoulder light, because when lighting an actor or anactress, backlighting will cause the edges of his or her hair to glow if he or she has fuzzy hair. This gives an angelic halo type effect around the head. This is often used in order to show that the actor or actress so lit is "good" or "pure". In television this effect is often used in soap operas and has become something of a cliché of the genre. It is also sometimes called the kicker or rim light." Wikipedia

Back-light Adds Interest

CC BY 2.0
CC BY 2.0 | Source

How to use a backlight

Most people when they first start into photography learn or are told that they should find the light source, position themselves with their backs against it so that the light falls on your subjects and snap the shutter.

This holds true for the majority of photography. But every once in a while we yearn to try something else " break the rules" as it were and this can result in some very amazing pictures.

Why photograph back-lit subjects?

  • back-light can add drama to an image
  • back-lit images can show the delicacy of a subject in its transparency.
  • back-light can help create "mood" in the scene
  • back-lit images can highlight details on the edges of subjects
  • back-light can reveal texture
  • back-lit images can show off the shape of your subject better than in a front lit scenario
  • And don't forget that using back light is the only way of creating amazing silhouettes with the Sun being the most predominant of light sources, especially the setting sun.

In this case the back-lit subjects the light is behind the subjects with the photographer in front of the subject.

Pay attention to how much light is available; too much and you may end up with a silhouette.

So the best method for smaller subjects when your intention is to capture and show their transparency/translucency is to use a small light source that is placed very close to the subject.

A photographic snoot works very well for this purpose but many lights will work if placed close enough to the back of the subject. Just do not use a very strong one.

Backlit Marble

CC BY 2.0
CC BY 2.0 | Source

Best back-light subjects

By far the best subjects for this technique are flowers and their petals, anything made of glass or plastic, insect wings, papers, cloth, feathers and even some materials like thin layers of marble.

You can even create your own subjects and applications by painting, designing or even placing cut out shapes on top of a clear glass pane or Plexiglas. For more of an effect, you can paint the panel.

For the majority of shots using the back light method you will probably need the aid of a sturdy tripod since your shutter times may be longer than it is advisable to use with a hand held shot. A mechanical shutter release is also a good idea.

Amber samples

CC BY 2.0
CC BY 2.0 | Source

Other uses for backlitghts

This technique is not new as it was the principle method used by scientists when looking at samples on a microscope which also opens the possibility for you to give "micro photography" (micrograph) a shot.

It is great for school projects and for general abstract photography purposes as well and your little ones will love it!

If you are willing to invest some money in the attempt to do some micrographs then get a microscope for college students.

The ones sold for kids at places like Toys R Us are too flimsy and mostly made of plastics, including the lenses.

You need real glass lenses and sturdy bases plus a light source that will not "cook" you specimens.

Lemon Slice

CC-BY-2.0
CC-BY-2.0 | Source

Back-light tips

Orchids

CC BY 2.0
CC BY 2.0 | Source

Ever tried this technique on purpose?

See results

Other subjects for back-light use

Besides the usual subjects there are many other things that lend themselves well like the shells of almost any crustacean as in crab shells, sand dollars, eggs, fruit slices and many vegetables as well as some toys.

In the studio make sure to assemble your subjects against a totally dark backdrop.

This helps eliminate distractions and gives a sharper focusing point for the viewer to focus on.

The technique is the same if doing full subject pictures or even abstracts and as well as when practicing macro photography.

Many of the resulting images may seem as abstracts but all pictures are suitable for use by most photography related publications, some specialized publications and for fine art galleries.

Do not overlook using your images for a self published eBook or regular hard cover one but if going this route, don't forget that the writing is as important as the pictures. You may consider using a ghostwriter to do the writing for you if you feel that you are more of a photographer than a writer.

© 2014 Luis E Gonzalez

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • LuisEGonzalez profile imageAUTHOR

      Luis E Gonzalez 

      4 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Ericdierker: Muchas gracias to you

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Just spectacular. I am not a photographer but I just love your hubs that teach me new ways to see my world. The way you take what your eyes capture and relate it into words leaves me spellbound and pleased. Muchas Gracius Amigo.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)