Tuesday Tips - Backlight

Pointing your camera into the sun is usually something that we all tend to avoid, and rightly so, as no no one wants you to fry your precious retinal walls by staring at the sun directly! However, while photographing any subject, if you can find an angle where they are lit from behind, then you have the opportunity to use this beautiful back-light to outline your subject in a crisp and dramatic manner. I am a lover of monotone backgrounds, be it light colored (snow) or dark colored (heavy shadow). In the following images, I went after a dark background.
So this is normally how I got about with it; I find an angle where the back-light outlines the bird or animal I am photographing and then I process the image by applying a concave parabolic tone curve over the image in Photoshop (after my initial round of processing in capture one pro). This way, the background really goes dark revealing the bird in a subtle yet beautiful manner.

These images of a Caspian Tern flying over Juanita Bay, in the beautiful evening light were photographed and processed using this technique.

 Camera : Nikon D850 | Lens : Sigma 150-600 C | Focal Length : 600 mm | Exposure : 1/1600 sec | Aperture : f/6.3 | ISO : 2200

Camera : Nikon D850 | Lens : Sigma 150-600 C | Focal Length : 600 mm | Exposure : 1/1600 sec | Aperture : f/6.3 | ISO : 2200

Caspian Terns love to shake off water after a dive and I was my lucky day as this dude shook off all that water against the beautiful back-light from the evening sun.

 Camera : Nikon D850 | Lens : Sigma 150-600 C | Focal Length : 600 mm | Exposure : 1/1600 sec | Aperture : f/6.3 | ISO : 2200

Camera : Nikon D850 | Lens : Sigma 150-600 C | Focal Length : 600 mm | Exposure : 1/1600 sec | Aperture : f/6.3 | ISO : 2200

PROCESSING TECHNIQUE

This is the image as photographed, with an initial round of white balance and color adjustments in Capture One Pro, imported in Photoshop.

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Next, I added a tone curve adjustment layer to just pull up the bright spots of water droplets and make them brighter as I wanted to accentuate them a bit more. I made sure to mask out the bird so that the adjustment doesn’t affect it.

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Now here comes the parabolic tone curve, where I plotted a point on the tone curve near the shadow information on the histogram, and just pulled it down till I liked the results.

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And lastly I added a sharpening layer to sharpen the details a little bit, I noticed some artifacts on the bird after I did this, so I again used masking to mask out the areas on the bird where the artifacting was obvious.

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Have a nice week everyone and go out and chase some back light now!