It's one of those things. You probably nailed it on accident once or twice and had no idea how to do it again. You've certainly seen in some really jaw-dropping photos but you could never put your finger on exactly what was going on. But wow, once you understand how backlighting works you can reap it's benefits and rock it in your own photos!
Backlighting is easy to describe. It's that beautiful light that shines from behind your subject, illuminating them to the point where they quite literally glow! It can truly take your breath away when done well. But it's not always the easiest effect to acheive - it's one of those lighting opportunities you have to be on the lookout for, and then know how to take advantage of it!
Generally, backlighting works when the light behind your subject is far brighter than the light in front of them. Momtographers will likely find when the late afternoon sun is low in the sky, there's plenty of opportunity for backlighting. Just position your tot facing away from the sun (look for that glowing rim around their hair!) get infront of them, and snap away. They don't have to be directly between your lens and the sun, in fact, it's better if the sun hits them more at an angle. And you'll have to be on the lookout for lens flare depending on how much light is directly entering your lens. It's a practice that takes, well, practice. But it's an effort that pays off in glorious images.
But once you find your backlighting - you still have to get your camera settings right. This can be tricky in and of itself. Backlighting creates a dynamic lighting situation that can be hard to meter for. Where do you meter? The face? The hair? And what mode do you meter in? Spot? Center? (Yes, yes, we promised simple, but you said you wanted "serious snap" so it's time we start asking some of photography's harder questions).
We suggest starting with spot metering and going off your child's face. You're going to get lots of blown exposure around the hair and in the sky - but that's part of what makes this look work. In fact, you're just going to have to learn to accept that with backlit photos, you will end up with some overexposed, blown out backgrounds. Because unless your cutie is a glowing ball of brightness like your light source, chances are their skin is go ing to be darker than the background. You can try slightly underexposing thier face to maintain more detail in the background area - you can always play with it in post processing to brighten up the face or bring the background down further. This is what we've found works best most of the time. Well, that and learning to live with overexposed, blown-out backgrounds in exchange for an illuminated glowing angel child!
There's one final challenge with a backlit photo... that's getting nice light on the face and a catchlight in the eye! Why? Well, the light's BEHIND them. But, if you have them facing a reflective source like a reflector, a body of water or a bright wall bouncing light at them, well then, voila!