Use Backlighting Creatively
This article was originally published in August 2012.
A lot of people believe that photographers must shoot with the sun right behind them, so that the subject is lit properly. However, this can look a little boring. Try shooting against the light instead. Depending on the angle you use and the camera settings, the subject may become a silhouette, or acquire a slight halo.
Dealing with Contrast
When shooting against the light, the amount of contrast in the scene can be quite high. To minimise this contrast, try using the Graduated Neutral Density filter as this will make the sky darker without affecting the lower half of the picture. If you are shooting portraits, you can use reflectors to throw light back onto the main subject. Alternatively, use Fill Flash to ensure that both the subject and background are lit. Finally, you can also use bracketing and shoot a number of frames at different exposures. These can then be combined into a High Dynamic Range photograph by using an image editing software like Photoshop or Photomatix.
Use Light to Compose
Usually, the function of a light source is exactly that—to light the scene optimally. However, when shooting against the light, the source of light is often a part of the frame, and can be used as a compositional element as well. For example, the setting sun looks like a large, orange circular mass, while the lights on the street resemble out-of-focus coloured circles. Use these shapes and colours to complement the overall composition. A sunburst at high noon, a row of Diwali lights and even a light bulb can be used as compositional elements in the frame.
Things to Keep in Mind
In broad daylight, if the sun is high in the sky, avoid looking at it directly. Since the sun is so bright, the camera will automatically choose a fast shutterspeed, but you should remember that if you are using the Manual mode, you should not use a slower value as this will expose the camera’s sensor for a longer time.