Shooting against the Light

The very first rule of photography is that the sun should be behind the photographer and this is the rule that you should never really follow as you progress in photography. Generally when you try to take a portrait with the sun shining on your subjects face, he/she is seldom able to keep the eyes in a comfortable position. On the other hand if you reverse the positions, your eyes wont be uncomfortable as you hold the camera in front. Just be sure to have a lens hood for the lens to avoid stray light from entering the lens. You may use you hand or some other shade if you do not have a hood handy.   


Sometimes one plans the shots intentionally against the light for reasons mentioned above, otherwise you may find a situation outdoors where you cant help with the direction of the light. And we cant restrict our photography just to scenes or situations which have the sun shining on them from behind the camera. we should be able to handle any situation be it in direct light or against the light. As a street photographer shooting different aspects of life as you see it you can ignore a part of it just because the light is not "favourable " conventionally. One should be able to shoot and capture the essence of what one has seen or witnessed the way it existed and thats the whole beauty.

For this advertising shoot of Blankets, strobes (studio lights) were used to illuminate the subject while the warm winter sunlight is acting as a hair/rim light.

Shooting against the light lets your model be comfortable even under a strong sun and effectively play around with expressions.

One may not always have the same kind of light when shooting two people together. While the light is falling on his face, she is absolutely against the light. Artificial light was used as a weak fill.

Around the Louvre museum in Paris, the two ladies are enjoying the summer sun. Shooting the photograph against the light, further enhances the feeling of warm sunlight. With modern sophisticated metering systems on new cameras, exposures are generally not a problem. The overall exposure is fine here and as required. The ladies are standing out more against the kind of over exposed grass and thats the intent.

One of the several fountains in Lisbon, Portugal, the water droplets are more pronounced as they are shot against the light. The Fountain structure by itself is almost a silhouette. One may not be able to shoot water droplets as effectively when the sunlight is falling directly on them. Like this the water droplets are standing out against the darker background. A bit higher shutter speed would have further frozen the water drops.


Shooting against the 

While shooting against the light one may choose to shoot with a small aperture to get the star burst effect. The sun needs to be aligned along an edge, a building or any other structure. starburst along with lens flare works quite well for this tram in Lisbon, Portugal.

One shoots from where one sees the action, you don't get enough time to change positions. As these skaters passed across me in El Retiro park, the instant reaction was to shoot and ofcourse the warm golden evening light with long shadows has only been an added advantage here.  

Shooting against the light also lets you have long shadows, which in conjuntion with a wide angle lens are further exaggerated. As a compositional tool shadows help lead the eye to the main subject. If you are creating an over all mood of the photograph, there is no need to compensate the exposure for the main subject and you can let it go dark. However, if you are shooting for someone, take care to expose for the subject to be visible enough to be identified. 

When there is less light inside compared to outside, not much light is reflected back on the subject. Being strangers to me, it was fine to let them be silhouettes as they talk to each other. On the other hand if it was the image of someone I knew or was shooting for them, I would have added an additional light source from inside, maybe a flash. A reflector is usually effective only if there is direct light falling on it. Shot on one of the top floors or eiffel tower in Paris.

This lady in a small village near Kohima, Nagaland, was quite amused as I clicked this photograph with her cat. For them facing the camera is not a very common phenomenon.

Against the light does not have to be restricted to humans. In this close shot of flower petals besides the deep saturated colour the transparency is showing as it has been shot against the a light.


The fine detail of this feather shows up better when shot against the light.

Marbles and translucent colour bottles would never show their true vibrant colours unless photographed against the light.