Too Much Back Light? Shooting With Bright Backgrounds

You grab your camera, battery charged, memory clear.  It’s absolutely stunning outside.  The air is crisp and the sun is shining brightly on the fresh fallen snow.  The kids are giddy with delight for the sledding hill, even the dog seems to be grinning from ear to ear.  The moment’s here; the fun, excitement, laughter, everything’s awesome.  You’re ready, set, and click!…Oh no! 

Some terrible force has replaced your bright and shining faces with dark, unrecognizable, shadowy figures from the underworld, what happened?  Light, and lots of it.  Your camera did not realize that you were actually trying to take a picture of subjects in front of all that light.  Your camera automatically adjusted for all that bright light behind your subjects, and left your subject in dark silhouette.

Sometimes the results can look really cool, when you want it that effect, like a surfer carrying a surfboard on a beach during sunset, the ocean and sky look fantastic, and the surfer is only recognizable by the dark outline of body and surfboard.  But what if you want to see your subject’s face smiling with all that bright light behind them?  You have two options.

First, find the snow/beach setting in your camera’s “Scene” menu.  By selecting this mode, you’re telling your camera not to compensate for all that bright light behind your subject, you can now see your subject but the background will be even brighter, or overexposed.  The second, and usually better, option is to turn on your flash.  In program, your camera didn’t think it needed to fire the flash because of all that bright light, but you can force it fire by pressing the flash control button, which looks like a lightning bolt.  Forcing the flash to fire will now put light onto the front of your subject, while the camera’s f/stop and shutter speed will expose for the background, balancing out the exposure of your subject and the bright background.

Quick Tip:  Forcing your flash to fire will usually fix any situation when there is more light behind your subject and you’re trying to capture the subject in front of all that light.

If you’re going to fire the flash, simply move physically closer or further away from your subject to get the correct exposure of your subject and the bright background behind them.  Now you can see their shining smiles and that beautiful landscape behind them.

Are you enjoying this series?  Please consider sharing to help-out another fellow photographer, thank you!

See More Posts

Online Camera Tutoring