When you think of backlight, you often think of beautiful settings outside.
But is outdoors the only option for backlighting your images?
Absolutely not! This is how I use backlight indoors…
Find the best window(s).
So first thing’s first, just like when you use backlight outdoors, you have to find the right spot for backlight indoors. That means locating a window that will give you the backlight you want.
I prefer to use bright sunlight when backlighting indoors but soft, cloudy light works, too. I’ll get back to that.
So take a look around your house. What do your windows look like? When does the sun shine through them and how does it look? What time of the day during what time of the year is the sun low enough to shine in the right place?
Our house has lots of good sized windows but only one where the sun shines the right way so I can use it for backlight. It’s an east facing window. This is important because the direction of the window will give you a clue where the sun will be.
Also, it’s only during early spring and early fall the the light will fall into this window low enough to use it for backlight! So in July, when the sun basically never sets here, it’s way too high to use for backlight at this window.
So, both seasons and time of day matter. This is my child hanging out in my favorite window on a glorious but freezing winter day. Perfect for indoor backlight!
Utilize strong light.
This kind of direct light is also fun to play with and you can get really creative with it.
I always make my daughter do hair flips because it looks ah-mazing in backlight. She has gotten so used to me asking, that she just does it anyway now.
This is not the best light for portraits so it’s fun use your imagination. Sometimes light is your main subject and this is the perfect time for that.
One thing to consider is underexposing your backlit images so you don’t lose too much detail in the highlights. Then you can easily recover your shadows when editing.
Soft light works, too.
If you live in a country where the sun doesn’t shine for most of the year like I do, you can still backlight with softer light.
One thing to think about is what is outside the window because that will be much more visible with soft light. In this shot I had to clone out a few bits and pieces of my neighbours red tiles to get the clean look I wanted.
With this kind of light you have to be careful not to underexpose as you will end up with a silhouette. It’s so different from a sunny day but still so dreamy!
Use currents to eliminate distractions.
Different fabrics or curtains are a great way of enhancing a backlit indoor photo. It can also take away from distractions in the background.
In the following photo, the distractions of the windows on the building in the background are a bit obscured by the curtains. They also add some texture and lines.
Texture and lines are usually interesting to look at. I intentionally underexposed this shot because I like drama and it makes the backlight pop.
Be ready when you’re on family outings.
So I realise that windows like the ones above can be hard to come by. They are certainly not in your everyday home. But when you do come across them, the result can be magical.
I took this next shot at the POLIN Museum in Warsaw. We ended up here by chance and I never would’ve imagined that I would run into a window with this magical light.
Luckily, I bring my camera everywhere. And you should, too!
Go to your local library or museum. It’s also be an excuse to get out with your family. It doesn’t have to be a grand museum in a big city, these places are everywhere. My point is that you need to look for light and opportunity and you need to be prepared when you find it.
On a final note, when shooting backlight, just taking a step to the side can change the image completely.
If I had taken a step to the left at the POLIN Museum, I would have had an image that was full of direct sunlight. It would’ve been a very different image.
This is the beauty of backlight, it’s so versatile. So find a good window and work some magic!