Tag Archives: lighting

Master Extreme Lighting

This is the tutorial every photographer needs for photographing Christmas carolers, candle-lit dinners, and Christmas lights. A combination of camera techniques, light hunting, and post processing tips will enable your Christmas images to shine like never before.

This video is part of our Digital Photojournalism Class. To watch more videos like this become a member or join a class!

What other tricks have you found to get that impossible shot? Leave us a comment below!



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Under Expose for Backlighting

Under Expose for Backlighting

Backlighting is one of the most interesting, dynamic and challenging types of lighting that a photographer can work with. A few weeks ago I wrote a post on how I over expose for backlighting, but just one approach doesn’t do this light justice or satisfy my creativity. Today I’m going to share with you how I under expose backlit scenes for dramatic effect.

What is backlighting?

Under Expose for BacklightingFirst off, light coming from behind the subject is what we consider backlighting. It has nothing to do with the direction your subject is facing and everything to do with the relationships between your camera, subject and light source. Light shining right at the camera is very difficult for the camera to meter (measure), but that’s a whole ‘nother topic.

How do I under expose?

Every camera is different but the big idea is to set your Exposure Compensation to a negative value. Start at -1 and see what happens. To make the scene darker, move to -2, to make it brighter, try -2/3 or -1/3. Most cameras mark the exposure compensation button with a symbol that looks like this [+/-]. If you are shooting in manual mode, don’t center the needle, rather move the needle to -1.

Under Expose for Backlighting
Here’s a shot of the sun going down over a Malaysian island. The sun is clearly behind the island, meaning that the strong direct light is not shining on the side of the island I can see. My goal is to create a dramatic sunset effect with my subject silhouetted, so I set the exposure compensation to -1, focus carefully on the island, and this is the result.

Under Expose for Backlighting
“Mother with her Dead Son” is a powerful war memorial by German artist Käthe Kollwitz. The scene is lit through an open oculus in the ceiling, allowing light to fall on the back wall, effectively backlighting the statue itself. To capture the mood of this scene accurately, I told my camera to under expose the scene by 1 stop.

Under Expose for Backlighting
The silhouette is the classic example of an underexposed backlit subject. Here I am photographing a group of photographers from one of our Colorado workshops as they photograph a dramatic sunset. By setting my camera to underexpose the scene by 1 stop, I have captured the people as silhouettes and the background as a beautiful sunset.

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This Week at IPS // Lighting

DP 1 students were learning about lighting this week. Here are some of our favorites!

Photo by Katie Rozeboom

Photo by Wendy Chen

Photo by Zanna Blankenbeckler

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3 Tips for Better Lighting

Lighting is obviously the key to photography. The word itself, photography, literally means to write with light. So here are three lighting tips that work for anyone, anywhere, with any camera to create amazing photos.

1. Find Good Light

You can work really hard to try to take good photos in bad light, or you can move your feet to find good light. This is something that professionals do instinctively, and one of the reasons there photos are, well… so much better!

3 Tips for Better Lighting

Notre Dame cathedral in Paris isn’t very brightly lit. Instead of fighting against the light by photographing things in the dark, I look for things that are well lit, like this statue, and use them as my subjects.

2. Turn to the Light

I critique a lot of photos. A huge percentage of these photos could be made significantly stronger simply by turning the subject relative to the light. The way the light interacts with the subject is critical to creating a dynamic photograph. Turning your subject isn’t hard. Walking around to the other side of your subject to better utilize the light isn’t hard. But you have to actually step up, and make it happen.

3 Tips for Better Lighting

Here we have 2 photos from a portrait session my wife and I shot. The big difference in these images is having the little boy turn his face upward to catch the light from the overcast sky. The first shot is interesting, but the second is going to sell.

3. Move to the Light

When you have control, move your subject to the light. This doesn’t work well if you’re a photojournalist, but as a portrait photographer you should be positioning your subject in great light before you pick up your camera.

3 Tips for Better Lighting

This bride didn’t just happen to be standing in the one beam of window light—I put her there. She was just standing around, waiting for her turn to walk down the aisle, so I asked her to stand in a place where the light made her look good. She looks good, I look good, everyone is happy!

Need some practice?

Try creating some window-lit portraits. You’ve just found good light [the window]. Now move your model into the window light. Finally, turning the face toward or away from the light is going to make all the difference in this great lighting setup.

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Composition with your Feet

For me this idea goes right up there with “Fill the Frame” and “Rule of Thirds” as one of the very best things that ANY photographer can do with ANY camera to get better photos. Another way to say this might be, “Stand in the right spot.” Or even, “Don’t be lazy.” Let’s be honest, lazy photographers get lucky on occasion, but in general, they just take mediocre photos.

As a photographer, when you see something cool, you simply zoom in, or zoom out, and snap your photo. It works. Zooming with the lens gives you a better photo than not zooming. That’s why you got your zoom lens, or that mega-zoom point and shoot to begin with.


Composition with your Feet

No amount of zooming can substitute moving your feet and getting out on the dance floor.


Now, let’s insert a quick step here. Before you zoom your lens, move your feet. Your new Photographer Action Plan looks like this:

  • See cool thing
  • Move feet
  • Zoom lens
  • Awesome photo!


Sunbeams over Venice

See church. See sunbeams. Move feet until sunbeams are behind church. Shoot photo.


There is no substitute for standing in the right place when you take your photo. As Ansel Adams said, “A good photograph is knowing where to stand.”


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