8 Tips To Get Started In “Backlight” Photography

“With our backs to the sun, with our backs to the sun…” is like a mantra that has been repeated in our heads over and over again every time we wanted to take a photo, because surely you have heard it so many times that it has stuck to your brain like a tick. Yes, of course, backlit photos, no matter how many “remnants of my life” they may be (as “The Last in Line” says), come out dark… or not? Mmmmm… this is full of nuances and the best thing is that we dedicate today’s article to discover that backlighting is not so bad and much less the angel Lucifer. He has many benefits and in this post I am going to show them to you. Do you want to meet them? If you’re thinking “Ohhh, no, another article on silhouettes, no…” Then I’ll tell you that you’re wrong, yes, we will talk about silhouettes, but (read this “but” with emphasis) there are other reasons to shoot against the light and really feel satisfied with the result. Now do you want to meet them? So sit back and keep reading 😉

But first take note of this article, it is a mega guide on lighting in photography, in it you will find tricks, tips and much more to master the light in your images.

What is a “backlight” photograph?

Before continuing with what the backlight offers us, we are going to define it well so that there are no doubts. Backlit photos are characterized, as you well know, by the fact that the lighting source (whether natural or artificial) is in front of the camera and not behind or to the side. Several options can be presented: that the light does not fall directly on the camera because it is covered by the subject (or object) or because we decide to leave it out of the frame, or that we do shoot directly at the light source.

Light source within the frame
Light source outside the image box
light source behind the object

You can also check in the previous images that backlighting can occur with well-lit subjects, surrounded by a beam of light or in the form of a silhouette. The silhouettes, in addition, can be very opaque or be somewhat illuminated. It all depends on what you want to achieve.

Next I am going to talk to you about those reasons why I told you that it is worth photographing against the light and finally I will give you some tips to learn this technique, because I have to tell you that it is a very good exercise to start in photography, since that if you learn to control the light, you will have a long (but a long) way to go in photography.


Backlit photos enhance the details of the image in a special way. It is as if each of the elements and their components come to life or have a magical halo, as if you can touch them. Take a look at this image, especially the stem, and notice how the hair stands out in the portrait.

Backlight enhances textures
The hair is seen in detail in a backlight

Freshness and naturalness

Photos taken against the light have an extra dose of naturalness and freshness. We are more used to the sun than to flashes and seeing the sun in front of an image makes us feel at home 😉 .

light profiles

Another of the wonderful effects of backlighting is the profile it draws on the protagonists of the image. It is as if with a luminous brush you drew the outline of the subjects (or objects), but you don’t have to do it, the light does it for you. And it will make it more golden if it is at sunset or sunrise. Of course, you have to find the ideal angle to achieve this effect. When you do several tests and you get the hang of it, no one will stop you.

light outline


I have already mentioned at the beginning that we would also talk about silhouettes, and they deserve to be talked about. Why? Because they provide drama, because they tell without showing, subtly, because they generate a halo of mystery, because they leave room for the imagination… The important thing is that you capture an interesting, suggestive silhouette, and if it tells a story, much better. You can see it in the example. And if what you want is to know step by step how to photograph a silhouette, read this post.

silhouettes with history

Light as an element of the image

When photographing against the light you are including light as an element of your image. Light is important in photography, so much so that without it we know that there would be no such photo, but it can also be an element of it. Iaio tells you very well in this article (essential).

Light as the protagonist of the image


Everything that has the virtue of being translucent is a perfect protagonist for backlighting. Due to its ability to let clarity through, if we take the picture on the opposite side to that of the light source, the transparency will become more evident and all the details will be highlighted, filling them with life and a special color. A stained-glass window, the wings of a butterfly, a silky fabric, the petals of a flower… their beauty is enhanced by portraying them against the light. If you don’t believe it, look at these examples.

Backlit poppy petals
translucent butterfly wings

Pure romance

Okay, not just any backlight, the ideal is the sunset. But it is backlight after all, and it is one of the elements that can bring more romanticism to a photograph. And as they say in my land, to show a button. I leave you a link to a pre-wedding report made by Fran Russo so you can check it out for yourself.

If you liked the idea, with this light and with these tips for photographing couples you can get a beautiful report. Maybe you don’t dare with your best friend’s wedding (it’s the most sensible thing if you’re not a professional), but you do with the pre-wedding or post-wedding.

8 tips for photographing backlights

I’m not going to lie to you, backlighting is not an easy task, but everything worthwhile in this life takes a little effort. Also, what can we not achieve with enthusiasm and practice?

These tips will help you achieve good backlighting:

  1. Spot measurement: Use the spot metering mode to be able to better measure the light and thus have better control of the backlight. You may want to get a totally dark silhouette, or a partially lit silhouette, or the subject is well lit but the light behind it is visible. Depending on the effect you want, you’ll have to meter on one side or the other, but you won’t get good backlighting using matrix mode or evaluative metering mode. If your camera doesn’t have this feature, don’t worry, it helps measure light, but it’s not essential for backlighting.
  2. Flashes: They have long been considered a mistake in the image, however, now they are in fashion. If I tell you to include sparkles in your photography, it’s not precisely to follow fashion (I’m not much of a fashion follower), but because of the magic and freshness they convey. In addition, the lines of the flashes can serve as a guide to direct your gaze to the point of interest.
  3. The flash: If full backlighting is what you want, avoid it. You can use it if you are looking for fill lighting for a portrait, although there are also reflectors (if you want a more natural result).
  4. Composition: Especially when photographing a silhouette, it is very important that you make a good frame and a more elaborate composition. The silhouette loses color and needs the composition to compensate for other “deficiencies”.
  5. Tells a story: That your image tells something is always important, but when we cannot see the face of a person or their gestures, or the textures of an object, the need for the silhouette to tell a story is even more important.
  6. Exposition: If you want a full backlight, you have to expose the background (even if you have to reframe).
  7. Make the profile portraits: The less illuminated you want to portray your subject, the more convenient it will be to put him in profile, so the nose, lips, chin, will give us information about his physiognomy.
  8. Take advantage of the golden hours: In reality, nothing at all, that moment of golden light before sunset lasts a mere fifteen minutes, but it is worth taking advantage of them because the light it offers is spectacular. with this app no sunset will escape you! And if you miss a sunrise it’s because you fall asleep 😉 .

We have reached the end. I hope I have bitten you with the backlight bug and although you know that it is not an easy task, I have motivated you enough to practice and achieve impressive images.

If so, help me motivate your contacts too by liking and sharing this article. Thank you very much! I’ll wait for you on the other side of the sun, I mean… I’ll wait for you in the next article!