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DIY photography Backlight for beginners

The post DIY photography background lighting for beginners first appeared at Digital Photography School. It is written by Ana Mireles.

Have you ever noticed how the subject stands out in professional portraits? What about the beautiful contours of bottles and glass objects in advertising photography? Do you wonder how they do it? You can achieve these and many more effects with background lighting.

Keep reading to learn what it is and how to find your way around it.

Backlight means that there is a light source behind your subject and points directly (or almost) at your camera. This can be used as the sole light source or as a supplement and can create depth in the image.

In the photo above, for example, I used background lighting to mark the springs and clearly separate the subject from the background. This is often used in portrait photography to emphasize the hair of the model.

1. Broader light sources

The sun can be an excellent source for background lighting, even if you are indoors. Simply by placing your subject in front of the window, you already use this technique. Although it often requires some form of manipulation. For example, if the view from the window is not the best decor for your subject or if the sun is too bright, you can add a diffuser.

An inexpensive and simple solution is to stick some oven paper, tracing paper or a thin white fabric on the window to soften the light.

The photo on the left does not use a diffuser. The sun was so incredibly clear that I could not blur the background with a shallow depth of field. The shadows were also very dark and disturbing.

In the image on the right I had a white, even background to show the subject, which also worked as a diffuser to soften the shadows.

This type of lighting works well for transparent objects. However, you can always supplement this with a different light, or you can place a reflective surface on the front to make the light reflect if your subject (or part of it) is opaque.

To show you what it looks like, I used the same setting for this bottle, but I placed a hand mirror next to the camera.

Most locations probably have windows unless you are in a dark room or something with a specific use where daylight is not desired. However, if you are in one of these places, you can always use the screen of your computer or tablet. You can find a nice posted photo or just open a blank document to create a white background.

2. Narrow light sources

Narrow light sources such as small spotlights create a very bright center that diffuses to the edges, and it is usually a harsh light, so it creates strong shadows. To create this effect, you can use a light bulb, a candle, a torch or even the LED light of your smartphone. Add a creative element by adding some color to it, like this example:

To create the silhouette of this little coyote, I placed the figurine in front of the background, which in this case was a red semi-transparent folder.

Don't forget that we are becoming creative here. If you don't have a folder like this, you can use other things as long as they are thin enough or transparent enough to let the light through.

After this, as a backlight technology, I placed a smartphone that was my light source directly behind the red background and pointed directly at the frame and the camera. I also used clothing markers to keep everything in place and set it up.

Keep in mind that the closer you place the light, the smaller the light spot will be. So move the phone (torch or whatever you use) back and forth to achieve different results.

These do-it-yourself hacks do not replace professional light equipment. However, they certainly allow you to take some creative images, practice your photographic skills and keep your budget intact. And the most important thing is to keep practicing.

Have fun and let us know other tricks that you come across in the comments.

The post DIY photography background lighting for beginners first appeared at Digital Photography School. It is written by Ana Mireles.

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