One of the basic rules of photography says that the sun should be positioned behind the photographer. But really good photos are often created by breaking the rules.
Backlight photography or side-lighting of the subject can create brilliant wildlife images. By light falling frontally into the lens, particularly contrast-rich images are achieved and the image obtains luminous dynamics. Creativity knows no boundaries.
How to capture the perfectly backlit wildlife image
In order to capture perfectly exposed images in a timely manner, Amazing Views Photo & Adventure Tours recommends the following 8 simple steps for the camera settings:
1. Set your camera on aperture priority (Nikon: A/Canon: AV), but always make sure that your shutter speed is fast enough. With some practice, you can also do the camera settings in manual mode.
2. Set the focus to continuous auto focus (Nikon AF-C/Canon AI-Servo) and work whenever possible with only one focus spot.
3. Open the aperture as wide as possible, in other words choose the smallest f-stop, for example f/4.0, in order to generate a beautiful bokeh effect.
4. Test alternately spot metering and centre-weighted average metering
5. Perform, if needed an exposure compensation such as:
a. +1 or higher to brighten up the image
b. -1 or less to darken the image
c. and/or correct the ISO number
6. Would you like to achieve a silhouette effect? Expose for the lighter parts of your subject. While shooting silhouette photos, make sure that your subject is standing free as a silhouette and that it is not distracted by other objects (e.g. animals or plants).
7. Position your subject, if possible, in front of a dark and/or even background. This makes your image motif stand out even more.
8. Check the histogram to make sure that the image is exposed correctly.
Bonus tips for backlit photography:
Make use of the best time of day for backlit images: As with other types of photography too, the best time to capture backlit images is the golden hour in the early morning or the last light before sunset. The sun standing low on the horizon creates an especially warm light and results in images with an enchanting atmosphere and impressive dynamics.
Avoid lens flare on your images: A challenge with backlight photography is unwanted reflections on the images, so-called lens flare. Often, it’s not that easy to avoid them. It’s important to use a lens hood. Sometimes it helps to cover the incidental light with your free hand or another object.
Position the light source optimally in your image composition: Depending on how you position your subject in your composition, you obtain different results. In wildlife photography, you can create spectacular effects when your motif is illuminated directly from the back by the sun or the light source. The outline of your subject is then beautifully lit-up.
Practice makes perfect! Improve your wildlife photography during your next photo safari with Amazing Views and benefit from the expertise of renowned photo guides.
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