Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Backlighting is light illuminating from behind the subject. This is very tough to correctly expose for and causes havoc with your camera’s light meter.

If you are outdoors and the light source is the sun, the best way to meter for backlighting is to point your camera to one side of the sun or the other, read what your meter is saying in Auto or Program mode, switch to Manual mode and then set the aperture and shutter speed. This will create a silhouette of the subject. Let me point out that you should never point your camera directly at the sun. In fact, do not have the sun anywhere in the frame when you are metering.

You can also bring out more detail in your subject if, still in manual mode, you open up one or more f-stops. This is what I did in the photo of the male African Lion when taking an early morning Kilimanjaro Safari in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. When pointing my lens to one side of the sun, I got an exposure of 1/1600th of a second shutter speed and an aperture of f/16. By opening up one stop to f/11, I brought out more features and color of the lion. Remember, the smaller the f-stop, the larger the lens opening or aperture thus letting in more light to enter when the shutter is pressed.

You may be wondering why the shutter speed is so fast in this case. Let me tell you, those “jeeps” on the safari bounce and rock a lot. So, I increased the camera’s ISO to allow for faster shutter speeds. For more on this technique, visit my tips on photographing on a Kilimanjaro Safari.

African Lion on the Kilimanjaro Safari in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida

A male African Lion is backlighted on an early morning Kilimanjaro Safari.
Nikon D70/80-200D, 1/1600s, f/11, 800 ISO, EV +0.3, 200mm Focal length

If you can get close enough to your subject either by using a zoom lens or being able to walk up to it, take your meter reading with the subject filling the frame through your viewfinder. Again, set your exposure manually and either zoom out or back away, compose your shot with the light behind your subject and you should get a great photograph.

There will not be a Photographic Innoventions next week as I am taking a vacation to various parts along the Atlantic shore ending up at Magic Meets. I’ll be helping Deb Wills out at the AllEars table along with Lisa and attending many events and presentations. See you there or see you back here in two weeks.

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Scott's "Photographic Innoventions" blog focuses on intermediate to advanced photography concepts and techniques relevant for Point and Shoot and Digital SLR cameras.

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