Don’t overthink light + shadows

When I first started photography I decided backlighting was my thing.  It’s that natural light photographer I don’t know how to use my flash properly and I am not sure about the look but I’ll also pretend it’s just not my style kinda thing – let’s be real.

While I do understand flash and how to use it, I’m just going to say I don’t like lugging lights around or backdrops so I choose to be more natural in terms of lighting.  Now I can really tell you I don’t mind flash and I understand it, but I’m now lazy and I don’t want to do it.  However, the idea of backlighting and thinking that your subject has to face their shadow straight on, well that’s changed for me.  You may have read this post where I talk about finding the light but in this post I want to talk about it from the side.

I would say if you’re a fan of backlighting, don’t forget it blows out your skies, and don’t overthink backlighting so much that you miss out on the nice view behind.

I also think lighting from the side is just fine.  I’m going to show examples, and most of these images you’ve already seen before but may not have paid much attention to lighting.

Yes this is perfect backlighting:

Everything about this shot was perfect, including the background.  But in some instances, it might be trickier and I want to challenge you to not freak out if your subject has sun on one side of their face because this is just a different lighting scenario.  It’s not incorrect, but you can still feel this is your style.

Lighting directly from the side:

Do you now spot what I’m saying?  Don’t miss out on a pretty backdrop just because you’re scared of shadows or you think everyone has to have the sun behind them.  Having light come from one direction isn’t just for studio lighting or drama, it can be done outdoors and be very pretty.

Now let’s look at inside.

Inside window light, to the side:

And if you really like to backlight, and maybe you do want flash, you can try this:

Happy shooting, don’t overthink it!

Diana Elizabeth always thought she had to have the light behind but that really limits how you can shoot.  Also keep in mind that if it looks good, it looks good!

Trying to decide what to write to make myself sound interesting.


  • krystalc

    You know I adore that last one to pieces.

  • Sisi Blu

    WOW! Natural light is best. However, what do you do if the event is inside a hall and crowded with people?

    Could you please share how you nailed that last shot?

    • Diana Elizabeth

      Hi Sisi, I’m guessing you’re asking in terms of how to shoot portraits with a busy hall? I would say you can’t shoot there. You can either lean them against a wall to avoid people (if the wall is something nice) or just walk them around places where there is more privacy. In regards to the last shot – just an off camera flash and no filler flash during a reception, it was an action shot during the first dance.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *