Outside of a photographers skill with a camera, there is a number of things that make up the building blocks of an amazing wildlife Photograph. The species, the behavior of the animal, the habitat (read background) and the Light falling onto the scene. Of these its the lighting that gives the photograph an artistic quality, mood and atmosphere. But its backlighting that provides these things in bucket loads.
This is the third incarnation of the Art of backlighting blog. As my own experience with backlighting has increased, so has my understanding of it. Central to this is understanding, is the dynamic range of light. In a practical sense its the ability for a photographer to look at a scene and know if a camera is able to capture all the stops of light within the scene. As we change the angle that the light falls onto our subject, so the dynamic range changes. From front lighting that has few stops of light in its range to back light that usually pushes the boundary of a cameras capabilities. With backlighting we see both the shadows of the light source and the light source itself. If you want to get a better understanding of this read: Understanding the dynamic rage of light
Backlighting what is it?
Well in layman term it’s almost self explanatory. It is any photographic situation where the light source is coming from behind your subject. That light source being natural or artificial.
What makes it so unique?
I have touched on this, backlight has probably got the most dynamic range in a scene, compared to side and front lighting. So photographs will always have loads of contrast. However it also has the potential to have too much contrast, resulting in blown highlights or underexposed shadows.
When used correctly contrast is what aids in making a subject stand out with in a picture. It provides instant separation from the back ground.
This is effectively achieved in two ways, Shadow & Light
- Shadow, so because the light source is behind the subject, the part of the subject we see is in shadow. This makes your subject darker than the area behind it, which is essentially very bright because that where your light source is originating from.
- Light, where the light touches the edge of your subject it illuminates just that area. An effect that is commonly known as rim lighting. This edge of light is what effectively outlines your subject against the background.