Shooting Backlit Situations on Film
Living in sunny California I love images with that golden sun popping out just behind my couple. When the light catches the highlights in the brides hair or creates that light burst behind the couple I get so excited!! However, when I transitioning form shooting mostly digital to shooting mostly film I noticed that this back lit situations become more difficultly to handle. However, I want; ready to give up on some my favorite shots so I kept playing with it. I thought I would share some of the tips that have helped me in these lighting situations.
When the light source is coming from behind your couple, it can be difficult to get enough light onto the front of your couple. Without a direct light source on your couple’s faces you can end up with images that are lower contrast or even unintentionally silhouette your couple. If you don’t get the faces properly exposed you can end up with muddy shadows. One way to increase contrast and avoid underexposure in backlit scenarios is using a reflector to bounce light back into your scene. I don’t like lugging around too much gear on wedding day so I usually look for natural reflectors. For example, placing your couple near a white wall, on the sand, or using a white towel or other prop to bounce natural light into the areas where the sun doesn’t reach can help open up the shadows.
One of the best ways toI have found to help with underexposure that comes from backlighting is to meter for the shadows. You can also overexpose 1-2 stops. This will help open up the shadows on the front of your subject where the light from behind can’t reach.
I love a little sun flare, but, it can ruin a photo if there is too much. Sometimes, sun flare looks amazing in photos! Other times, it can overpower the couple. You can control sun flare by shielding your lens with your hand, using a lens hood, or moving yourself or your subject so that the light isn’t directly hitting your lens. I also want to point out that dreamy light. Usually filters in form the side of the couple and not directly behind them. Getting a little sun flare on your brides hair for example is going to work so much better then if the sun flare is coming from directly behind the couple. Use trees, buildings and other objects around you to naturally diffuse your light.
Of course, the best thing you can do is to practice in a variety of lighting situations. This will help you learn when and how to adjust the way you meter or position your subjects in difficult lighting scenarios. Leave your digital at home and try a roll of film n back lit situations, right down what you did and take notes on what you love when the film comes back so you can always be improving.