Backlighting can create stunning and dramatic photographs, but it can also be a challenging technique to master. When shooting in backlight, the main source of light is behind the subject, which can result in a silhouette effect or a high contrast image. However, with the right approach and some simple techniques, you can capture beautiful and well-exposed images in backlight. In this article, we will discuss some tips and tricks to help you shoot in backlight like a pro.


Understand the Exposure Triangle

The exposure triangle consists of three elements

aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. When shooting in backlight, it is crucial to understand how these settings affect the overall exposure of your image.


  • A wider aperture (smaller f-number) allows more light to enter the camera, which can help in properly exposing the subject in backlight. However, be careful not to use too wide of an aperture, as it can result in a shallow depth of field and make it difficult to keep the entire subject in focus.

Shutter Speed

  • A faster shutter speed can help in reducing the amount of light entering the camera, which can prevent overexposure when shooting in backlight. However, using a slower shutter speed can also create interesting effects, such as motion blur or light trails.


  • Increasing the ISO sensitivity can make the camera more responsive to light, which can help in capturing well-exposed images in low-light situations. However, be cautious when increasing the ISO, as it can introduce digital noise into your photos.


Use Exposure Compensation

Most cameras have an exposure compensation feature that allows you to manually adjust the exposure settings. When shooting in backlight, the camera's metering system may be fooled by the bright background, resulting in underexposed subjects. To compensate for this, you can use positive exposure compensation to brighten the overall exposure.

Start by setting your camera to evaluative or matrix metering mode, which takes into account the entire scene. Then, use the exposure compensation dial or menu to increase the exposure by around +1 or +2 stops. This will help in properly exposing the subject in backlight.


Utilize Fill Flash or Reflectors

When shooting in backlight, the subject's face or body may appear dark or underexposed. To overcome this, you can use fill flash or reflectors to add light to the subject and balance the exposure.

Fill Flash

  • If you have an external flash or a built-in flash on your camera, you can use it to fill in the shadows and illuminate the subject. Set the flash to a lower power setting or use a diffuser to soften the light and avoid harsh shadows.


  • Reflectors are portable and affordable tools that can bounce light onto the subject. They come in various colors, such as silver, gold, and white, each producing a different quality of light. Experiment with different reflectors to find the one that works best for your desired effect.


Use Backlight to Your Advantage

Instead of trying to avoid backlight, embrace it and use it creatively to enhance your photographs.


  • Backlighting is perfect for creating striking silhouettes. Position your subject between the camera and the light source, and expose for the bright background. This will result in a darkened subject with a well-defined outline.

Rim Lighting

  • Backlight can also create a beautiful rim or halo effect around the subject. This occurs when the light wraps around the edges of the subject, highlighting their contours. To achieve this effect, position the subject so that the light is coming from behind and slightly to the side.


Manual Focus and Spot Metering

When shooting in backlight, the camera's autofocus and metering systems may struggle to accurately focus and expose the subject. To overcome this, switch to manual focus and spot metering.

Manual Focus

  • By manually focusing on the subject, you have full control over what is in focus. Use the camera's focus peaking or magnification feature to ensure sharpness.

Spot Metering

  • Spot metering allows you to meter the exposure based on a specific area of the frame. When shooting in backlight, meter for the subject's face or the most important part of the scene to ensure proper exposure.



Shooting in backlight can be challenging, but with the right techniques and settings, you can capture stunning and well-exposed images. Experiment with different exposure settings, utilize fill flash or reflectors, and embrace the creative possibilities that backlighting offers. With practice and patience, you'll be able to master the art of shooting in backlight and create captivating photographs.


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