Photography Tip #3 - Backlighting & Rim Lighting with Bright Sunshine

When you’re working outside in the bright sun and you put the sun directly behind your subject (right behind the person you're photographing) this is called 'backlighting'.

When you shoot towards the sun like this, you'll need to know how to avoid sun flare & sun haze. When backlighting your subject, you want the sun to be blocked by your subject's body or head or by something else in the background. Hide the sun behind something. 

You need to practice finding the perfect camera angle so the sun is glowy in the background but not blowing out your photo. In the tutorial video, I demonstrate how the slightly change in camera angle can allow the portrait to still be crisp and you can still see the details of my face BUT you also get this beautiful sunlight halo. We call that glowing halo 'rim lighting'. In our humble opinion, this is gorgeous and as good as it gets in the photography world. So beautiful!

If your camera angle is slightly off, your subject won't be blocking the sunlight and you'll end up with sun flare, sun haze or a big burst of sun. In the tutorial video, you can see the sun creates a strange looking blob of light on top of my head. This is avoided by moving the camera down just one inch to block the sun and create backlight and rim light.

Backlighting is easiest and most beautiful in the evening and early morning light. This is why we encourage all of our clients to take picture during 'golden hour'. If you try it in the middle of the day it's tricky because the sun is high in the sky. It's hard to get the sun BEHIND your subject because at noon, the sun is typically ABOVE your subject. To create backlighting in the middle of the day you usually need to kneel down low and point your camera upwards (which will make your subject look like a giant!) At sunrise/sunset the sun is closer to the horizon and therefore more at eye level i.e. behind the person you're looking at or photographing. 

In these photos of the Evans Family, you can see the sunlight is coming from behind them and creating a beautiful rim of light around their heads. 

In these photos of the Evans Family, you can see the sunlight is coming from behind them and creating a beautiful rim of light around their heads. 

To practice finding the right camera angle....

  • Point your camera straight at the sun.
  • Draw an imaginary line from the sun in the sky to the front of your camera lens.
  • Imagine this line, this sunbeam, is like a lazer. If you put something in between the two points (sun & camera), the line is interrupted. 
  • Interrupt that line with your subject (your kid's head/body) and you'll get backlighting or rim lighting. 
  • If you move your camera at a different angle, so it's no longer a straight lazer line, you won't get the same backlighting or rim lighting effect. Practice by making big movements away from the sun with your camera and overtime make your movements smaller and smaller until you notice the slightest changes and how they affect 

It’s really all about having more awareness of where the sun is in relation to your camera. Practice practice leads to pretty pretty!! Have fun in the sun you guys :D

Check out our recent Photo Tips:
Photography Tip #1: Avoiding Hot Spots on the Skin When Shooting in Summer Sunlight
Photography Tip #2 - Avoiding Sun Flare & Sun Haze