Backlit Subjects and Flare

Backlit subjects on the streets of New York.

Backlit subjects on the streets of New York. NYC.

This was the first sunset of 2014. Paris, France.

This was the first sunset of 2014. Paris, France.

Traditionally speaking shooting into the source of light is not regarded as good photographic technique. I have a good friend who is highly talented and has a body of work I admire greatly. She has shown consistently how effective this technique can be used. Several of her portraits have moderately to heavily backlit subjects and every time I see them I nod my head slowly in agreement.

This subject loses some contrast and there is a bit of flare in the frame. Napa Valley, California.

This lightly backlit subject loses some contrast and there is a bit of flare in the bottom right corner of the frame. Napa Valley, California.

I think the thing that most people are trying to avoid when a subject is backlit is the lower contrast and the potential for flare.  Plus, unless you have a camera with decent dynamic range you will completely lose out on exposing the side of the subject facing the camera. Much of this can recovered with software in post production, but you need to have something there to work with before you begin. Another potential drawback is the chance for flare.  Me, I don’t mind these ‘flaws’ in my photos, in fact, I like the character it adds to a photo. And like everything else in life it needs to be done in moderation for it to be effective.

Backlit pedestrians and strong flare present. New York City, New York.

Backlit pedestrians and strong flare present. New York City, New York.

One of my favorite photographs shot from the hip of someone walking through the park. I like the bright, blown out portion of the image and the shadows of the trees coming toward the camera. Paris, France.

One of my favorite photographs (shot from the hip) of someone walking through the park. I like the bright, blown out portion of the image and the shadows of the trees leaning toward the viewer. Paris, France.

So, the next time you think you can’t get the shot because you are not positioned correctly with your subject and light source, go ahead and shoot. Give it a try you never know what you’ll come up with.

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