A simple backlighting technique

Wedding photography is hard. Really hard. Even getting creative in the studio at times is hard. You’ve got minutes to create a variety of portraits for the bride and groom (groom and groom, bride and bride - you get the point) and lighting situations are not always ideal.

To help you out, below, I present a technique you can use outdoors or in a studio! And it’s quite fast to execute also - so quite the swiss army of lighting technique. Right below, you will find a video on the subject but, if you prefer text - read along.

A simple definition of backlight

Backlighting is simply having your main source of light behind the subject. Behind can be at any angle - should it be left or right (it doesn’t have to be straight behind) but typically it’s right behind. The source of light can be the sun, a flash, a speedlite, a strobe or anything that creates light really.  Backlight portraits creates ethereal and very “airy” portraits where you can either isolate a shape or some facial details.  

Why is backlight useful

Backlighting will help you build a larger portfolio during your wedding sessions or studio portraits. It’s very quick to setup and some lighting setups doesn’t require more than one light so it’s efficient if you are on a budget or in a hurry. The margin of error is also very wide. When shooting raw, playing with the exposure, highlights or shadows will allow you to get the desired effect - depending on your intentions.  

Backlight in the studio with Flash or Strobe Setups

Studio backlighting takes many forms thus it’s powerful use. For the sake of simplicity - we will discuss my favorite way of getting the shot.

Backlight Lighting Setup  - Equipment - Simple 1 light with modifier

This is the simplest form of backlighting in the studio which is the one light setup.  To do this, you have to keep in mind the limitation will be the size of your modifier. The smaller your modifier, the smaller your area of shooting will be. So if you only have a small 15 inch umbrella, the most you will get is a headshot. If you have a 5 feet Octabox or a large reflective umbrella, your area of becomes much larger  - potentially a full body or top half. 

With that said let’s jump into the specific technique.

The following is by no means the ONLY way to achieve this but it’s how I get it done.

  • To achieve this, simply place right behind your subject, your light mounted with it’s modifier or choice. Closer the better since the light will bleed in and light some of the subject’s face or features. For this, I chose an 35” Octabox. This give me plenty of room for a landscape or portrait orientation photo as you can see here.

  • Frame your camera to fill in the edge of the modifier (or tighter should need be).
  • Meter your light to get within 1.5 stop of optimal exposure. This will give your breathing room to play with your raw. You can also ‘eye’ it - meaning guess the exposure after a couple of frames. Simply adjust either your light power or your aperture to get the desired effect.
  • Start taking photos! Warn your subject that the frame is to a certain width and height so that the poses should be within that frame.

Hope this help! If you do try it out, please let me know over Instagram! 


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Cheers and good luck.


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Lumu Power review:

Here are the HD photos download link or a PDF file with every image from this really non-scientific test - the settings are in the title. Not enough? Gallery of the images below (not named though). 

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Broad Photography Lighting - A quick how-to with examples

Let’s talk about broad light! Broad light is a very useful tool in your belt in case you want to shoot a fully lighten full body image or a group portrait. The biggest advantage of broad lighting is that you only need to set your lighting once and need very little adjustments afterward. 

Which means for e-commerce shoots, editorials and anything that has a seamless backdrop (clothing shoot, full body portraits, etc), you get a consistent look and you can focus on other than your light (I got 99 problems but my lighting ain’t one! 🙌). 

Jump! With Cindy Piché Bernier

Below is a behind the scenes and portrait using this setup plus a kicker light for separation. As you can see, the light is fairly high to have even coverage of the subject. This is where the light stand paired with rollers and it’s boom arm comes to play. Also, I angled it slightly to make sure the light hits the background a little some I don’t have to add another light to at the background. The powerful boom arm gives the light 360-degree capability for finite adjustments.

A BTS in the style of Francisco Hernandez.

Unsure about you how you place your light? Use this quick and dirty test: Meter your light at 2-3 different points on your subject as below. As always, use the bulb in your strobe to see where the light hits.

Here’s an example:

That is where a large source of light such as an umbrella comes in handy. This photo metered approximately at f/5.6 all around. If your light values are not similar all around, your probably need to tilt your light in one way or bring it closer to you. Your light will lose some power around the feet due to the inverse square law but it is something we can live with. If you cannot live with it, add a low powered light or a reflector at the feet. (Read more about the law @ Peta Pixel

This way, you can be sure you have an even spread of light and colors will not shift too much, which is critical during  e-commerce photoshoot. For extra safety, get yourself a color passport checker.

The biggest disadvantage of broad lighting is the fact that the eyes are sometimes dark since there is no direct light on the subject’s eyes

To fight that, there are 3 solutions.

1) We can take advantage of the eyes glossiness to add a ‘pop’ of light at a very low power so that there is some life into those shiny globes. In the above behind the scenes setup, the Godox AD600 is set as 1/128 power and should not influence at all the exposure since the aperture near 5.6 with a shutter speed of 1/250.

Another example below if the kicker light moved in front of the subject. The effect can be adjusted to your liking depending on your desired look.

A close up of what the effect is - this light was about 10 feet away and you can still see the stripbox shape.

2) Another solution is a nice and big fill light behind you with a very large modifier such as a reflective umbrella for that large pop.

3) Angle your light and lower it to make sure it hits the eyes. However, this solution might be of a disadvantage since it reduces your shooting space or negative space (e.g. if text needs to be added).

Broad light is a great tool also for group portraits for an evenly lighten portrait of 2 to 5 people. Make sure they are close to each other!

Add This For More Production Value

To add a bit of flair to your portraits, think of adding a kicker light on a side of your subject to create separation from the background. It’s pretty useful when you have similar tones or colors. Gel it if you feel extra creative. See the example below - it’s slight but it’s noticeable.

There you have it! If this was useful to you, I discuss light, photography and all that fun stuff on Instagram and Youtube so make sure to follow me on those platforms. On your next shoot, give broad lighting a shot and share them in the Master The Light Facebook group!

Happy shooting,