Introduction: Take Better Backlit Photos
Here is a Quick Tip to Take Better Backlit Photos
The best way to take photos of subjects that are Backlit (have bright light behind the subject) is to change position of yourself or the subject to avoid backlighting. Often only taking a couple of steps to the right or left (either by the shooter or the subject) will change the background enough to reduce the backlight.
That being said, it is not always possible to avoid backlighting. But there are things you can do to dramatically improve backlit photos.
Step 1: Understand Your Camera
Understanding how your camera works and the features it has will certainly help you take better photos in any situation. This is especially true for backlit photos.
To correct the backlight problem you could manually adjust the exposure your camera is using. But I have to confess that I am not that familiar with the manual settings of my camera, and it would take a lot of fumbling and multiple shots to figure it out.
You can also set your camera to force your camera flash to fire. This will provide light on your subject to balance out the backlight light. This can be a simple or complex proposition and is not the quick photo tip of this instructable - I'll save that for another instructable.
But there is another easy and quick approach. Check to see if your camera can easily lock its exposure:
For example, camera instructions will often direct the user to press the shutter button part way down (lightly) in order for the camera to focus and select the exposure, then squeeze off the shot. If your camera has this feature you are already half way to taking better backlit photos!
The problem with backlit photos is that most cameras will be fooled by the bright background to under expose the subject of the photo in the foreground, making them dark and hard to see.
If your camera will lock the focus and exposure settings when you hold the shutter half way down and keep it there (lightly pressed); this works to your advantage! While you are holding the shutter button half-way down and the focus and exposure are locked, you can aim the camera at a different scene. I'll explain how this helps...
Step 2: Take a Test Photo
Take a test shot and see what you get. If it comes out like the one shown above, you have a backlight problem. See if you or the subject can move to reduce the backlight issue. If not, look to see if there is a adjacent portion of your scene that is not backlit. This might be above or below your subject or to the left or right.
In this case the subject is framed by a sliding glass door so looking to the area outside of the bright doorway is what I want to do...
Step 3: Pick a Different Area to Lock Exposure On
Since you can lock your focus and (more importantly) your exposure, you can take an exposure reading from another area adjacent to the scene. In this case I have chosen to lock the exposure for taking a photo of her feet. This is not what I want in my photo but this view does not have a bright background and it is almost exactly the same distance away to insure that my final photo will still be in focus since the focus locks too.
So I point the camera at the subjects feet and press the shutter button half way down and lock my focus and exposure on the feet, which are not backlit.
Step 4: Take a Great Photo
Now, while still holding the shutter half way down with the exposure and focus locked, I redirect my aim to take the photo of my subject that I really wanted. Snap!
And there it is. I have 'fooled' my camera into picking an exposure that is correct for my subject and have taken a much better photo. The background will be overexposed, but I'm not interested in the background; I want to see my subject and now I can!
I hope this helps you take better photographs.