Its Technical! Backlight Photography

Its Technical: Backlight Photography. ManButur Sawidji introduces ‘Its Technical’. The world of Photography is so wonderfully diverse. As you know, the artistic heart in photography is vital at ManButur Sawidji. But quintessentially, photography is a marriage between art and science. Its Technical! are posts sharing with you the technical aspects that we encounter within our works. We hope you enjoy!

A Little About Backlighting

Backlighting in photography means exactly how it sounds. Backlighting means the source of the light in your image is positioned behind the subject. It is a popular technique amongst many photographers for very good reason.

Though in practice , backlighting is not always as straightforward as it sounds. Nonetheless, it is a technique important to learn. Its a great way to expand your knowledge and versatility within your photographic technical skills.

Its Technical! Backlight Photography
Its Technical! Backlight Photography

Some Effects of Backlighting.

When you use a backlight, this usually makes the image more dramatic. It emphasises the depth in your image. Whether in the studio or outdoors in natural light, backlighting can impact the tone of your image and change its storyline considerably.

When you are using a single light source, it is placed directly behind the subject. Enough for the light to spill from around your subject but the source is hidden behind the subject. You can create some powerful compositions rendering a silhouette against a natural or studio backlight this way.

Like in ManButur’s ‘Silent Moment’ Shangyang Jaran series, the backlight technique is used to create an image narrative that connects this dance performance even to the shadow puppet art of Indonesia.

ManButur Sawidji Art and Photography. Its Technical! Backlight Photography
Fire Mystic by ManButur Suantara

Backlight Techniques Towards Image Narrative

When a subject is in deep shadow, the overall composition becomes a lot more important. There are less details in your image to distract a viewer. The balance and focus of your composition will be important. The visual tone changes significantly, adding mystery and perhaps emotive undertones. You can get some effective results from this technique. Especially when appropriate for your narrative.

For example, looking at the image below the backlight from the sun and the tones set in this image creates a sentimental and romantic undertones. The visual language in this composition is reminiscent of early idyllic memories. Almost dream like.

A beautiful series ‘Journey’ by M. Suantara.

Developing your technical skill in backlighting is a great way to explore your image narratives. Which is a vital element in the effectiveness of your visual language. The natural or studio backlight can help you grow technically as well as artistically. Of course, it requires practice and certainly a degree of trial and error to master it.

Its Technical! Backlight Photography In the Studio

For now, we go back to the studio and explore backlight techniques with the studio portrait.

A common situation is that of limited space. If you have a small studio space you may want to use just one light. Not directly behind the subject, but positioned at a 45degree angle from the subject. This enables you to create the emphasis of depth and dramatic contrast for your portrait in a minimal studio set up.

To soften the high contrast you have a couple of options. You may want to use a diffuser or fill light to add enough details for your portrait. Or secondly, a reflector could also come in handy.

Every light source and position will give you a different effect or mood. It is important to have fun and experiment with your set up. Get to know what you like and study the results. Critically understanding your own compositions helps you make the choices that establishes your visual footprint. Your own visual language.

Its Technical! Backlight Photography by Dewi Dian Reich Portrait  of Kaprus Jaya.
Portrait of Artist Kaprus Jaya


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