Article ID : 00141000 / Last Modified : 01/22/2016

How to shoot subjects that are backlit

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When your subject has a strong light source behind it, the subject is going to appear darker compared to other parts of the scene.

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Although this is normal in such shooting situations, it is possible to achieve the desired exposure by using the following methods:

  • Use a flash
  • Adjust the exposure compensation
  • Use a reflector panel
  • Use a flash extender

Since you are shooting towards a bright light that is causing your subject to be shadowed, you can try using a flash to compensate. Whether it is a built-in camera flash or external flash doesn't matter, as long as it helps illuminate your subject.

Exposure compensation

Another option is to adjust the exposure compensation. In the auto shooting modes and P/A/S-modes, the automatic exposure (AE) function is activated, so that the camera will judge the optimal exposure and set the aperture, shutter speed and ISO sensitivity accordingly. By using this AE function, you can shoot photographs with appropriate brightness automatically judged by the camera.

However, depending on the situation, the brightness judged to be appropriate by the camera may be different from what you expect. In the photograph shot with the AE function below, the exposure is based on the brightness between the bright cloud and the dark building. However, if you want to emphasise the towering cloud, the darker image is better. On the other hand, if you want the building to be rendered more clearly, the brighter image is better.

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Showing an exposure compensation of +0.7 / 0 / -0.7

Exposure compensation is an adjustment of the exposure judged to be appropriate by the camera to make it closer to the brightness you want. As in the above example, the appropriate brightness of a photograph varies depending on the scene or your personal preference. If you want to make it brighter, adjust it to the + side, and if you want to make it darker, adjust it to the - side.

Flash and reflector

If possible, consider using a reflector panel near your subject. A reflector panel simply bounces some of the light back towards the front of your subject, helping to brighten up the darkened shadow areas caused by the strong light from behind.

In some situations you may find a flash extender to be useful. A flash extender connects to your external flash and magnifies the flash power. It is beneficial for shooting far away subjects.