Do you still stick to the old rule of always taking photos standing with your back to the sun? It’s high time to break this habit as quickly as you can! To take really good pictures you actually need to confront the light quite often.
Working with backlight is practically a must when taking photographs in the countryside in order to capture the full atmosphere and drama of the scene. As it turned out, we realised this fact once again as we recently took a morning stroll along the Weinstraße. The pictures that we took with front lighting were really well illuminated but were missing that extra something and appeared a little uninspiring.
The opposite was true of the pictures we took while pointing the camera in the direction of the sun. Here the green leaves on the vines positively glow. A wonderful summer feeling is also conveyed by the photo of the poppy flower when the light is allowed to shine through the red petals.
Photographing with "backlight" doesn't necessarily mean shooting straight into the sun. This would result in bad lens flare and could also be dangerous for your eyes. What is meant instead is that the sun should shine onto the subject at an angle from the front. And the sun itself should only be visible in the photo in exceptional cases.
To avoid underexposure, it is necessary to correct the exposure value by +1/3 to +2/3 EV. If the sun is visible in the photo, the exposure will often need to be adjusted even more. However, take care to avoid blown out highlights where light parts of the picture become washed out. If this happens and the main subject of the picture is still too dark then the light is too dazzling and the contrast too high. It may be best in this case to return to the scene later on if you can. The ideal time for taking atmospheric backlit photos is directly after sunrise or before sunset. The light is less harsh at these times of the day.
The alternative to backlighting is to have the light coming from the side. This is very effective for adding depth to scenery that stretches far into the distance or to emphasize the shape of a single subject. However, it is also important to ensure here that the light is not too harsh. Early morning and late afternoon will result in the best pictures.
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