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Exposing for backlit shots

From: Pro Video Tips

Video: Exposing for backlit shots

So let's talk about exposing for backlit shots. If you're shooting with a consumer camera, smartphone, or on First, you could use manual exposure and open Next, we could use auto exposure, and go in very close so that Third, on many consumer and prosumer camera's, there's a And lastly, also in the menu, you can adjust the auto There are three different styles you can choose when it comes to back lit shots.

Exposing for backlit shots

So let's talk about exposing for backlit shots. Now the main reason that the conventional advice is to shoot with the sun to your back and facing your subject, is so that you can get a good exposure on your subject's face. If you're shooting with a consumer camera, smartphone, or on a DSLR or any other camera in auto exposure mode, your camera's going to auto expose for the bright light by stopping down the image and making your subject under exposed. So to get a good exposure on backlit subjects without using any extra lighting tools, we're going to have to do one of several things.

First, you could use manual exposure and open up the iris to expose for your subject. You may find the waveform monitor helpful to tell when you've got your subject at a good level if you can't easily tell by eye in the bright sun. Next, we could use auto exposure, and go in very close so that only our subject fills the frame, then lock in that same setting manually. Third, on many consumer and prosumer camera's, there's a backlighting mode you can turn on in the camera menu. This will compensate for the backlight by exposing everything brighter than normal, so you can still see your subjects face clearly.

And lastly, also in the menu, you can adjust the auto exposure mode so that it overexposes everything, which will cause your background to blow out, but your subject to be normally exposed, since the auto exposure is metering on the overall brightness of the image. It's over exposing most of the image, except the part you care about most, your subject. There are three different styles you can choose when it comes to back lit shots. Because the background is so bright, and the camera side of your subject is so dark, it's often impossible to get a good exposure on both at the same time, without taking some extra steps.

So we have to make a choice. The question you have to consider is, do you want to see the background clearly at a good exposure, or, do you want to see your subject clearly at a good exposure, or, do we want to see both of them at a good exposure? With a little knowledge and a few simple tools, we can do any of the above. So let's look at several different ways we can approach exposing for a back lit shot, depending on the particular look we want to get. Let's start with two of the easiest. If it's important to see the face of the person we're shooting, we can just dial up our iris, or use one of the other methods I just discussed until their face is well exposed.

This will purposefully blow out the bright background, while also creating a complimentary glow of light around subjects and windows, or framed against the sky or similar bright backgrounds. However, if we flip the script and expose for a bright background, it will leave our subject in shadows and create a silhouette. Now early on, many film makers discover that creating a clean black silhouette isn't as easy as they thought. The key to getting a good silhouette is having the proper lighting conditions which is really only two key things.

First, the background should be very bright, so the sky, a white building reflecting the sunlight, the sun itself, a window, a brightly colored wall, will all work well to create silhouettes. The next condition is that the camera side of your subject must be as under exposed and dark as possible. That's why we need a bright background. The more we close down the iris to get a good exposure on the bright background, the dark rust object will become, and the cleaner and more impressive our silhouette will be. And as a side note, it's generally easier to get a silhouette on someone in darker clothing that doesn't reflect light, rather than someone wearing something like a white t-shirt.

Now one simple way to expose for the background of a backlit shot, and get a better exposure on our subjects at the same time, is to use a reflector. The same light coming from behind, forms a nice hair of rim light on our subject on the first pass, then bounces off the reflector to also act as a key light. Because it's the same type of light at the same color temperature, this technique will give you a very natural feel. You can also get a few different variations on the quality of the balance slide on your subject, such as whether it's hard, soft, or warmer, depending on the type of reflector you decide to go with.

Check out my location lighting course on the lynda.com library, for a demo of different types of reflectors and the looks they create. Now the other way to expose for our subjects and the background at the same time is to light our subjects with an artificial light. When we use an artificial light, just like with the other methods, we first expose for the already brightly lit background because that's the one factor we have no control over. Then we simply use an artificial light source to light our subjects at an intensity and color temperature that matches the background.

For exterior shots, this means using a daylight balance light source, or using CTB gel on a tungsten source as this will give you the most natural look. However, if you want your subjects to pop out from the scene a little more, you can light them at an intensity that's a little bit brighter than the background. This is a technique commonly used in broadcast news and other stand ups. You could also light them with a tungsten light, or add a little CTO gel to a daylight, source like HMI or joker light, if you wanted them to have a warm contrast against a day lit background, which would also make them stand out more.

So those are the different strategies for exposing for a backlit shot. Depending on which one you choose, you can get a variety of different looks for the exact same shot.

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This video is part of

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Pro Video Tips

84 video lessons · 12017 viewers

Anthony Q. Artis
Author

 
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  1. 21m 43s
    1. Video portrait intro NEW
      1m 51s
    2. Video portrait camera work NEW
      13m 32s
    3. Considerations for a video portrait interview NEW
      4m 11s
    4. Bonus: Finished video portrait NEW
      2m 9s
  2. 2m 8s
    1. Intro to Pro Video Tips
      2m 8s
  3. 17m 27s
    1. Controlling reflections in glass
      4m 7s
    2. Managing color with polarizers
      2m 32s
    3. Using a polarizer to adjust skin tones
      2m 0s
    4. Using polarizers when shooting landscapes
      4m 42s
    5. Ten polarizer tips
      4m 6s
  4. 14m 34s
    1. Supplies to get to hide lav mics
      2m 13s
    2. Hiding lavs in collars
      5m 16s
    3. Hiding mics in hair
      2m 17s
    4. Hiding mics in sheer tops
      2m 40s
    5. Hiding transmitter packs on talent
      2m 8s
  5. 34m 25s
    1. Canon C100 overview
      11m 33s
    2. Looking at the Atomos Ninja
      12m 20s
    3. Checking out the C100 menu options
      10m 32s
  6. 10m 28s
    1. Ten tips for set safety
      10m 28s
  7. 9m 18s
    1. Packing a truck
      9m 18s
  8. 19m 24s
    1. Putting together your lens kit
      1m 0s
    2. Normal lenses
      1m 54s
    3. Wide lenses
      3m 5s
    4. Ultra-wide and fish-eye lenses
      2m 53s
    5. Telephoto lenses
      4m 53s
    6. Super zooms
      2m 54s
    7. Macro lenses
      2m 45s
  9. 17m 22s
    1. The importance of exposure
      1m 31s
    2. Using waveforms
      5m 3s
    3. Using histograms
      6m 53s
    4. Using zebra stripes
      3m 55s
  10. 10m 20s
    1. Shutter speed overview
      3m 18s
    2. Different ways to use shutter speed
      7m 2s
  11. 10m 29s
    1. Tips for keeping your budget down
      10m 29s
  12. 10m 11s
    1. Working with batteries
      10m 11s
  13. 24m 39s
    1. External audio settings
      4m 2s
    2. Audio input menus
      9m 31s
    3. Audio output menus
      4m 6s
    4. Setting and monitoring your levels
      7m 0s
  14. 16m 33s
    1. Introduction to backlight
      1m 18s
    2. Types of backlight
      3m 51s
    3. Exposing for backlit shots
      5m 31s
    4. Backlighting translucent object
      1m 39s
    5. Avoiding lens flare and wash out
      4m 14s
  15. 13m 28s
    1. Booming techniques
      13m 28s
  16. 5m 42s
    1. Feeding your crew
      5m 42s
  17. 8m 36s
    1. Choosing between prime, servo, and manual zoom lenses
      5m 19s
    2. Running and gunning with prime lenses
      3m 17s
  18. 10m 55s
    1. Green screen lights and materials
      3m 47s
    2. Mounting the green screen
      1m 39s
    3. Lighting the green screen
      3m 8s
    4. Lighting your subject
      2m 21s
  19. 9m 28s
    1. What to look for when buying a tripod
      6m 13s
    2. Working with monopods
      3m 15s
  20. 23m 19s
    1. Choosing a camera
      3m 2s
    2. Preparation and supplies for a surf shoot
      2m 13s
    3. Dealing with lens fog
      1m 44s
    4. Mounting your POV camera
      3m 20s
    5. Tracking and shooting your surfer from the shore
      6m 56s
    6. Interview with Tony Cruz
      6m 4s
  21. 8m 37s
    1. Introduction to lens mounts
      1m 24s
    2. Canon mounts
      2m 0s
    3. PL mounts
      1m 59s
    4. Nikon mounts
      1m 24s
    5. Micro 4/3 mounts
      1m 50s
  22. 7m 30s
    1. Introduction to lighting ratios
      1m 19s
    2. Comparing ratios
      2m 52s
    3. Measuring light ratios
      3m 19s
  23. 10m 25s
    1. Ten Looks in Ten Minutes
      10m 25s
  24. 5m 36s
    1. Using camera height and POV to better tell your story
      5m 36s
  25. 9m 49s
    1. Tips for lighting an interview subject
      9m 49s
  26. 15m 5s
    1. Taking 10 pounds off your subject
      4m 1s
    2. Dealing with nose shadows
      3m 3s
    3. Lighting different skin tones
      2m 55s
    4. Putting makeup on your subject
      5m 6s
  27. 10m 4s
    1. Types of cookies
      4m 6s
    2. Making your own custom cookies
      2m 47s
    3. Controlling the look of a cookie
      3m 11s
  28. 18m 11s
    1. Introduction to shooting sports footage
      1m 15s
    2. Getting good coverage for your sport shoot
      5m 55s
    3. Camerawork for shooting sports videos
      5m 4s
    4. Gear to bring on your sports shoot
      4m 52s
    5. Wrapping up
      1m 5s
  29. 8m 34s
    1. Tips for using bounce light
      8m 34s

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