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Camera FAQ #16: 4 Steps to Capture a Soft, Dreamy-looking Backlit Portrait

Did you know that you can make use of ghosting and flaring to create certain effects? This article introduces the technique of using flaring in backlight to obtain a portrait with soft, dreamy qualities. (Photo & text by: Yuriko Omura, Model: Hitomi Maehama)


EOS 5D Mark III/ EF50mm f/1.2L USM/ FL: 50mm/ f/4.5/ 1/640 sec/ ISO 1000/ WB: 6,300K
I chose a woman holding a fallen leaf as my main subject, and created a dramatic finish for the photo. I did so by removing the lens hood and shooting in the backlight of the evening sun to create flaring and ghosting.


STEP 1: Search for a location where trees are not visible behind the subject, so that the model is bathed in backlight

I took the shot at a location in the dark forest where the orange setting sun was shining through between the trees. I chose a spot where the trees were not visible behind my subject, and shot from about 1.5m away. I got the model to hold a large fallen leaf in her hands, and composed the shot to have the setting sun positioned between the leaf and the model’s face.


STEP 2: Remove the lens hood to emphasize the backlight

The orange sunset was beautiful as it shone intensely into the forest. To make the most of that ambience, I removed the lens hood while shooting in backlight, so that flaring and ghosting would occur. By doing so, I was able to create an image that appeared as if the woman was bathed in light.


STEP 3: Keep adjusting your position to get the flare where you want it

Since flaring is caused by the angle of the light that enters the lens, take test shots repeatedly while finely adjusting your angle for your shoot. Flaring that feels excessive will result in photos that look more dramatic. When you place the flare on the subject that you want to emphasize, the viewer’s gaze will be drawn to that spot.


STEP 4: Set the WB to 6300K to exude warmth

I wanted to emphasize the ambience of twilight and the orange backlight shining into the forest, so I set the WB to 6,300K to give the photo calmer colours with a warmth close to that of the setting sun.


TIP: Place the flare close to the subject that you want to emphasize

Flaring and ghosting occur when strong light (such as sunlight) enters the lens. It goes without saying, but flaring and ghosting occur more easily once the lens hood is removed. I recommend placing the lens flare close to the subject that you want to emphasize (in this case, the woman and the fallen leaf). However, it is important to adjust your position so that there is no excessive white blowout in your photos.


With flaring

EOS 5D Mark III/ EF50mm f/1.2L USM/ FL: 50mm/ f/2.5/ 1/2500 sec/ ISO 1000


Without flaring

EOS 5D Mark III/ EF50mm f/1.2L USM/ FL: 50mm/ f/2.5/ 1/5000 sec/ ISO 1000


To find out more about the effect of a lens hood, click below:
3 Reasons Why You Should Start Using a Lens Hood


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Digital Camera Magazine

Digital Camera Magazine

A monthly magazine that believes that enjoyment of photography will increase the more one learns about camera functions. It delivers news on the latest cameras and features and regularly introduces various photography techniques.
Published by Impress Corporation

Yuriko Omura

Yuriko Omura

Born in 1983 in Tokyo. Previously a shop assistant at a camera store, Omura currently engages mostly in photo shoots for artists and photo albums.