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Landscape & Light | How To Use Backlighting In Landscapes Photography

By Holly Roa on May 15th 2018

In photography, light is the most important element of any scene, since its absence leaves us with nothing at all. All we see is a reflection of light, and a photograph is no more (and no less) than a record of that reflection.

We work to learn to control light, to bend it to our will, but some cases it’s beyond us, and we must learn to work with what we’re given instead. Landscape photography, in particular, is a genre where the light is out of the photographer’s hands, creating a different kind of relationship between photographer, subject, and light.

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Award-winning landscape photographer and YouTuber Adam Gibbs has created a series on recognizing and working with different types of photographic light, and his most recent deals with a sort that is reliably dramatic and beautiful: backlighting.

Backlighting is used in all types of photography to create separation between subject and background, and landscape photography is no different. Forest scenes are well-suited for backlighting, as light shining from behind trees offers an ethereal view of an every-day scene, highlighting detail and color.

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Biggest Tip For Backlit Landscapes – Manage Flare

Shooting into the sun, you significantly increase your chances of picking up unwanted lens flare, but there are things you can do to prevent or reduce the occurrence of flare.

  • Use Your Lens Hood

Combatting flare is precisely what lens hoods are made for, so take full advantage of this accessory that comes with most lenses.

  • Clean Your Front Element

Smudges on your lens will be more apparent with the light streaming directly into the lens and can even ruin your shot beyond Photoshop-ability, so take just a few seconds to clean your lens.

  • Take Off Your Filter

UV filters can be a useful protective element for your lens, but they also offer another opportunity for flare to creep up and cause issues in your backlit shot. This is doubly true for inexpensive, single-coated options.

  • Shade Your Lens

When your lens hood isn’t cutting it for flare reduction, sometimes you’ve got to use your hand or an object to block the incoming sunbeams. It’s easy to tell when you’ve blocked the offending flare – just look through the lens and see when it disappears.

For more tips and to hear Adam speak about his landscape work, watch the video below.

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Terms: #Backlight

Seattle based photographer with a side of videography, specializing in work involving animals, but basically a Jill of all trades.
Instagram: @HJRphotos

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Louis Joseph

    Great post!  I suppose lens flare is not the best for images that will be blown up and mounted on a wall as an art piece.  Although, artistically done, lens flare looks totally rad and I believe adds that “hidden” element to a photo that backlighting does.  I have come to believe that if you are shooting outdoors and do not use backlighting, your images probably look a little flat and non-magical.  Not saying that images with traditional (sun behind the photographer) set up cannot be magical…, just saying if you moved the sun behind the model, the images would probably have an extra special something added from the backlighting.

    Great post!!!

    Louis Joseph

    Jersey Shore and Asbury park couple and family and children photographer

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