XDrive Photography Learning – 15 – Backlit Photography.

When it comes to photography we always want a perfect lighting. When there is a perfectly lit subject we are almost guaranteed to get a perfectly exposed shot. Yes, that’s true, but then what about the conditions where natural light is no in our favour? Does it mean that we don’t have a shot No, not at all, there is a special type of photography technique which you could make use, whenever you encounter a “not so good light” condition.

Assume that you are at the beach, and it’s a sunset time, now if you want to capture a shot while including the sea in your frame then definitely sun is opposite to the camera. That means your subject is lit from the back and the bright sun is facing you. If your camera is set to auto exposure mode then you are going to end up with an underexposed image. This is where the backlit photography comes into action.

By definition, the backlit condition is, when the source of your light is facing the camera. Unlike other types of photography its kind of tricky to set the proper exposure here. I generally go for manual exposure in these situations as I am able to control the exposure as I want. Semi-automatic modes in camera generally get confused here. Also with backlit photography sometimes you need an underexposed image and sometimes an overexposed one. Generally, camera’s exposure control sees a bright light falling on the lens, so it will restrict the aperture or the shutter speed to reduce the light and you will end up with a picture with a lot of shadows.

Now the question is what kind of shots you can take in a backlit setup? Check the following examples and the corresponding comments.


Clouds with the backlit conditions perfect recipe for a dramatic image. I have used f29 (max) just to get that rays of the sun. Here people on the beach are not important so I keep them underexposed.
Backlit conditions allow you to create great silhouettes. Sharp focusing on the objects whose silhouettes you are shooting is very important. In this case, the focus was on the trees.


Backlight produces a great play of shadows and light. A normal shot of the same framing will be boring.
In general photography, the subject is lit well and the background will be lit bit lower, here it is opposite. Overexposed background puts the underexposed subject in the view.
Backlit images create a mystery because they are associated with shadows and lights.
Backlit shots add emphasize on the shapes and lines.
Backlights add photograph various levels of brightness, this creates a great texture and a third dimension to the image.
Backlit photography is generally done on nonliving things, its a perfect setting for landscapes and cityscapes.
Backlits creates simple stories as there are fewer distractions and confusions for the viewer.
The backlit condition allows you to create a rim light effect with natural light.



One can do portraits in backlit conditions. But you may have to add a reflector or a fill flash as portraits need a well-exposed subject and backlights generally produce an underexposed image.


What you think? interesting? Yes, it’s very creative shooting technique. Whenever you do backlit photography pay attention to following points.

  • Focus carefully, because of underlit conditions camera’s autofocus might miss the intended focus point. I feel right focus may be the trickiest part if you are doing portraits.
  • Strongly recommend manual exposure as most of the times camera will go wrong with auto exposure. If you must use semi-auto then try the ‘spot metering’ on your subject. You may also try ‘exposure lock’ if your camera supports it.
  • Always check the sun’s position, include the sun only if it is really required. If the sun is included mostly you are going to end up with a silhouette. So try to avoid the sun in the frame.
  • Many times you might have to overexpose the background in order the properly expose your subject and that is perfectly fine.
  • If you have a lens hood, try using it during backlit shooting, this is done basically to avoid the direct sunlight on the lens.
  • Shoot raw, because there is very strong chance that you will do a lot of edits later.
  • Your black and white photography can take great advantage of backlit photography.

Well, that’s all for the week guys. Hope you liked this post. Now let’s see your backlit images.

Please make sure to check out my earlier sessions here.


  1. Post at least one or two pictures you have taken with your camera (raw or jpg) and corresponding edits you were able to do. Fresh or existing images are fine. Apply all the things we learnt in the previous sessions.
  2. Let me know type of camera(mobile, DSLR, point and shoot)
  3. Try to put EXIF data (shutter speed, aperture, ISO) so that I can comment better.
  4. Add a tag ‘XDrivePhoto’.
  5. Add a pingback to this post. (Basically, copy the URL of this post, and paste to your post. (Anywhere)
  6. Title the post as “XDrive Photography Learning – 15 – Backlit Photography.”

Your ping-backs may not appear immediately as I have to enable them later. I will check your post, and I will comment on your post itself. I will post selected contribution links to this post later so that others can also see and learn from them. (Please note there is no time limit for your contributions, you can post them anytime, I will respond to them as you contribute. You can also make more than one contribution to the same topic)

Although these lessons are geared towards newbies, expert photographers also welcomed heartily. I need to learn too! There are no teachers here everyone is learning.

Cheers and Happy clicking!



XDrive Photo Lesson 15 – Backlit Photography (NaBloPoMo Day 18)





29 Comments Add yours

  1. This is totally mesmerising..Even I do quite well photography(I m not a professional though).
    But yours is just lit 💙

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Raj says:

      Thanks Shruti for your kind words of appreciation. 🙂 I am a man with a camera too.. 🙂


  2. Helen C says:

    Thanks for another wonderful lesson, Raj. I was wondering what would come up next 😉
    I have a couple of questions: (1) The second photo – you focus on the trees, and then purposely underexpose the photo so the trees would look black? I’m curious about the exact setting you used for taking this kind of photos… (2) The building photo — is that a backlit photo? I am a little confused with the direction of the light. It seems to me the light was coming from left, behind the photographer.
    We have a lot of cloudy, gray days recently. I hope the sun will come out so I can do my homework 😉
    Good night.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Raj says:

      Thanks Helen for your likes and of course the questions. They are valuable.
      1) This photo was NOT intentionally underexposed, in fact, it was taken in aperture priority mode. f1.4, ISO 100, 1/4000 sec at 30 mm. The evaluative mode used. Actually, I did bring out a bit of shadow in PP. These are not a very challenging kind of shots. Try it.
      2) Yes, you are right it’s not strictly “back” light. I guess the light was on the left side. But If you see the clouds and the pattern on the sky you will see the bright patches that happen only when there is a bright light behind it. But to answer your question yes, it’s not strictly backlit but from the sides. It was not from behind the photographer. But also there is a PP and I have brought up the brightness of the buildings. In black and whites, it’s very important to show the contrasts. The other photo of the temple bells also kind of similar lighting conditions.
      Even on cloudy days, one can do backlit photography as long as you have a bright patch of light. 🙂
      Have a good night.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Helen C says:

        Raj, thank you for answering my questions.
        >> …one can do backlit photography as long as you have a bright patch of light
        If so, I wouldn’t call it “gray” days. Ha ha… Any light no matter how small, how short time, would cheer us up at this point.
        Good night.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Leya says:

    I love backlit shots, but have never tried them as purposely as you suggest, the manual way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Raj says:

      I don’t know somehow I love so much these backlit photos. I always end up with the more backlit collection than the rightly lit photos! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Leya says:

        😊I almost recognize myself – at least in Spring and Autumn shots.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. A very meaningful and mesmerising post !!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Raj says:

      Thanks Tanvir for your compliments. ! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Amy says:

    These are great tips for taking backlit photos. Thank you, Raj! I don’t always adjust manual exposure. I did a couple of times when I was shoot horses, but didn’t remember to turn it back to normally.
    I love the last photo, beautiful, sweet smile. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Raj says:

      Thanks, Amy, the advantage I have is mine is a mirrorless camera and with the manual exposure I see my final pic before even I click the shutter, so adjusting the settings as I am viewing through the viewfinder is a piece of cake. DSLRs you have to try, check and retry. The live view might help a lot for you while shooting backlit shots.
      Thanks for your appreciation of my daughter’s pic! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Amy says:

    Hi Raj, Mine is coming up https://wp.me/pSlDL-g4j. Looking forward to hearing your critics.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Yoly says:

    Nice post Raj

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Raj says:

      Thanks Yoly.. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Amy says:

    Hi Raj, I removed the crane on the right as you suggested having two instead. It does look better. I used PS to erase it, but I am not very skillful. 🙂
    Thank you so much for your critics.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Raj says:

      Its just an suggestion Amy, sometimes we may not be able to correct certain things. But as long as you understand why that third crane to be removed ..we are good. That’s the whole point of my comment. 🙂 You are so prompt Amy. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Amy says:

        I took a close look a few times of the photo before I decide to edit, the cane on the right was blurry and was too dark.
        I wasn’t skillful with PS and mine is PS CC, it always takes me time to use PS (I probably cropped a little more). Had I not agreed, I probably wouldn’t go through the trouble. Don’t know about prompt, almost time for the next lesson. 🙂
        It’s a great lesson and practice. Thank you, Raj! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Raj says:

        Thank you Amy!


  9. Another great post with wonderful pics .. I must give the manual exposure a go. Thanks Raj

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Raj says:

      Thank you Julie! 🙂


  10. brenda says:

    Thank you for this photo lesson…My initial plans for this lesson were put on hold due to an extended migraine. But, I am especially grateful for your discussion of using backlit to create silhouettes as it invited me to be open to the softness of an evening sky.



  11. brenda says:

    Good day Raj…hope you and your family are having a wonderful weekend. I’m thinking that my efforts to resubmit your lesson plans results in an expanded learning…a hands on learning and exploration. The recommendation of using pure black along the bottom resulted in a more dramatic image. Thank you. _()_



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