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How to Overcome Backlit Photos


Imagine the excitement of getting all your photos back from a special occasion, only to find out that all the faces are too dark. There is a reason why this happens and it is generally because of back lighting.

Most people would think it crazy to use flash when taking photos on a bright sunny day, but flash is often your friend in a situation like this.

Any camera you use will use a metering system to evaluate the scene and make a decision on what exposure to set, to produce a well-exposed photo (unless you set your camera to manual and choose your settings yourself).

Backlighting happens when your subject is facing away from the light and the camera’s meter underexposes the shot, as it believes that there is plenty of light in the scene.

There are a few things that you can do to ensure that the people in your shots will always be well exposed. If you have a compact camera you can manually switch on the flash, by switching the flash from auto to on. On most cameras to switch the flash on you will press the little lightning bolt symbol. Switching your flash to on means that your flash will fire regardless of the camera’s meter reading. If you find that faces are still too dark and you are using flash, then you need to get closer to your subjects. The flash on compact cameras is not so strong, so if you are too far the flash might not be reaching your subjects’ faces.

If you are using an SLR that allows for spot metering then you can meter off the people’s faces, which should produce a well-exposed shot. If your SLR does not have spot metering then you can either pop up your flash or simply face your subjects toward the light rather than away from it.

If you don’t like flash in your photos then turn your subjects toward the light or add more light onto their faces with an additional light source (a small daylight balanced HDMI light panel works well).

If you have already taken your photos and need to find a way to lighten up the faces then Photoshop might be your saving grace. You can open your digital files in Photoshop and then use the curves or levels tool (you can choose either tool from the small cookie icon at the bottom of the layers panel) to lighten up the faces. This technique is a little more involved and out of the scope for this article but it might be comforting to know that there are ways to salvage those photos.

Enjoy!
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Content copyright © 2015 by Ewa Sapinska. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Ewa Sapinska. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Ewa Sapinska for details.

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