5 Tips for Great Backlit Photos with image of girls in a park with backlighting

We have all seen those beautiful backlit photos and wonder just how they were taken.  I am going to give you 5 secrets that I use to get great backlit photos.  The first 3 tips are crucial to backlit photo success.  The last 2 tips are more creative techniques to take your photos to the next level.  

Shoot During Golden Hour for Backlit Photos

To create great backlit photos we need the sun to be first behind our subject and second the sun needs to be low enough in the sky to create a dramatic back-lit photo.  This will always occur during golden hour.  There are two times of day when we are in golden hour.  The first time is the first hour after sunrise.  So the moment the sun breaks the horizon and an hour after that.  The second time of day is the last hour before sunset.  So you would need to determine the moment the sun sets on the horizon and calculate an hour before that to be in golden hour.  Here is a great website that can help you calculate when the golden hour is in your location.  

I use an app on my iPhone called Magic Hour but there are many apps to choose from for both apple and android devices. I highly recommend getting an app, as you will always have it handy to determine when golden hour will occur.

Crank Up Your ISO

Most of the time you will want your ISO to be as low as you can get it to avoid noise in your image.  For backlit photos I recommend raising your ISO so that you can keep your shutter speed above 1/250 at a minimum.  You want to keep a fast shutter speed so that you can get tack sharp photos.  This is especially important for moving subjects!  Click the links for a refresher on ISO and/or tack sharp photos.

Use Spot Metering for Backlit Photos

How you choose to meter is especially important with backlit photos.  I recommend spot metering because when you spot meter on your subject you will ensure that they are properly exposed.  If you keep your camera on evaluative/matrix metering the camera will try to expose for the whole image and your subject will come out dark.  Click here for a refresher on the different metering modes your camera has to offer.  

Use your Subject to Partially block the light

To create great dramatic sun flare in your images, use your subject to partially block the sun. This may require you to move around a bit or even crouch down but the resulting images will make you so happy. Sun flares around subjects make for some of the most amazing images.

Image of a girl with a sun flare due to backlighting

Create a Ring of Fire

If you really want to get creative with backlit and golden hour photography you can create a ring of fire. You do this by holding an approximately 2 inch piece of copper pipe up to your lens and shooting through it. You will need to move the copper piece around until you see a golden ring in your viewfinder around your subject.  This technique takes practice but once you master it, you will want to use it often.  

Image of boy blowing bubbles inside a ring of fire photo

I assure you if you follow these 5 simple tips you will get great backlit photos every time. Do you have any other tips for backlit photos you would like to share? Leave me a comment below.

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