One of the highlights of a photographer’s career is composing beautiful portraits using the sun as a source of back light. You may have tried using the sun’s warm light yourself, however, your past attempts may have resulted in a series of photographs streaked by flares or darkened by unintended shadows. The following four steps may help you develop the skills needed to successfully photograph your subjects using the sun as back light.
Location: First, find a location that includes some background elements that can be used to diffuse the intensity of the sun, such as, an interesting line of trees. However, your background elements must allow the sunlight to diffuse sufficiently, for example, the leaves of the background trees must not be so dense that they completely block light from the photograph, after all, we are trying to capture the warm tones of the sun.Time: Next, you must shoot at the right time of day, for instance, the “golden hour” is the brief time, during the morning and eveing, when the sun is low on the horizon. Actual times will vary from location and season, so you will have to determine the exact times yourself; it would be a good idea to observe and note possible times prior to your shoot.
Focus: Be sure your camera is not set on a multi-metered setting as your subject should be the only element in focus. You may notice if a small aperture is used, for example, f/22, the entire scene becomes more focused, and as you widen your aperture, for example, f/1.4, your subject becomes the center of focus while the background begins to blur. Experiment with these settings and note how they affect your image.
Flare: to avoid flaring in your photos, position your subject before a background element that blocks the strong light of the sun. Move your subject around the location and remember, the sun does not have to be directly behind your subject to achieve desirable effects.
These four steps should help you develop the necessary skills for using the sun as a source of back light. Now it’s time to practice. Have fun, be creative, and happy shooting.