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Alek Hoskins Blog

My 5 minute guide to backlit portrait lighting in the golden hour.

It has taken me years to learn how to effectively light portraits and frankly I’m a long way from perfect. I used to practice with my sisters, dogs, cats, dolls, anything and everything. I used to go out in the afternoon and try and learn how to back light my portraits. At first I was going out too early and so the light I was getting was far too harsh and direct for the effect I wanted to achieve. Once I found the right time of day, I expected all the magic to happen in camera. I soon learnt that a lot of achieving successful back-lit portraits required playing with contrast, clarity and the blacks slider. When it comes down to it, good natural light portraits are all about learning your light and what you can do with it.

My top 5 tips for back-lit portraits are:

1.     Filter the light through a tree or similar. This avoids really harsh light hitting your subject allowing you to keep colour in your backgrounds rather than blown highlights.

2.     Expose for shadows/midtones. This gives you that “airy” and “soft” feeling. Expose for the shadows and add contrast in post. Don’t be afraid to desaturate and play with the blacks slider. I’ll do an indepth blog about editing and shooting backlit soon.

3.     Don’t be afraid of black and white. I really love black and white back-lit portraits. Give it a try one day.

4.     Practice. Of course its easier said than done, but the only way to get better at photography (portraits in particular), is practice. Get out and learn the light, learn what you can do in post and see where your limitations are.

5.     Get low, get the sun behind the subject. Getting the sun behind your subject gives you a great rim light that I love. You will need to get low for this though.


I will be doing an in-depth tutorial of back-lit portraits soon including POV shooting and editing. Keep an eye out for that in the near future.

Thanks for stopping by.


Alek Hoskins