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Hank Parker

lighting a subject w/ strong backlight

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If I'm going to shoot someone in black and white with a very strong light source, like the sun, backlighting them, and I wanted to maintain some of the diffused, slightly underexposed look to the person who's facing the camera, and I'm not using digital, what's the best way to do this? I would like to see the sun a bit in the background, and have a nice diffused look to the person in the foreground. I've seen this is countless advertisements where people are lounging around on the beach with the sun in the background, their fronts are not blacked out by the backlight, but made to look diffused and slightly dark.

 

I know this question's been a little convoluted and ineloquent, but any help you guys could offer would be great. I don't have much experience with non-digital filmmaking.

 

If I was using a still camera, say, a canon AE-1, how would the lighting situation be different?

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If my post was somehow unclear, by all means, tell me what was unclear about it. I'm really curious to hear what people have to say about this.

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If you are shooting a subject who's back is to direct sunlight, and you want the subject to retain detail, then typically, you would simply set your exposure for the front of the subject. Of course, in doing so, the sunlight will probably "blow out" (be extremely bright): if its a cloudless day then am sure the sun would be 6 or 7 stops over the front of the subject. If you want the front of the subject and the backlit sun to be closer in terms of exposure, then you either have to add light to the front of the subject (using bounced light, reflector or white board, or artificial light) or cut the amount of sun light falling on the back of the subject (using a net, silk, or some form of diffusion). This will bring the amount of light behind the subject and the amount of light hitting the front of the subject closer together in terms of footcandles (amount of light).

Don't worry about wether its a still photo or a moving image, the principles of lighting will still stay the same. You should, however, be aware of wether or not you are using film or digital/video.

If you are using film, you will have much more latitude (the amount of detail from shadow to highlights) then if you use a digital camera.

Read up on Ansel Adams "Zone System" of photography and a lot of your questions will be answered. Hope this helps.

 

Raffi Kondy

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Typically you'd use soft frontal lighting, bounced maybe as suggested.

 

Your judgement has to be which do you favor, the 'sourciness' of the backlight or is the backlight more effect.

 

You can certainly bring up your fill so as to not blow out the bg but you might want to not "kill the flavor" of the backlight also.

 

 

-Sam

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In a daytime exterior backlit situation, I never expose the front side of the face at key because that looks wrong to my eye. You want to retain the feeling that the face is in the shadow side opposite the sun. I usually underexpose a backlit face outdoors by one stop in close-ups, maybe a stop & a half in wide shots depending on how low the sun is. The lower the sun and the more the backlight is just a hot rim or edge, you can expose more for the shade, but as the sun is higher and it is more of a top back light, you need to come closer to splitting the exposure between the sun and the shade to look realistic.

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"In a daytime exterior backlit situation, I never expose the front side of the face at key because that looks wrong to my eye. You want to retain the feeling that the face is in the shadow side opposite the sun."

 

David, would you do the same in a daylight interior with strong sunlight coming through the windows? In your film, Northfork (which looked stunning, by the way) I noticed that you had a strong backlight (HMI?) coming in through the windows in the "dream" scenes with Darryl Hannah, Anthony Edwards, etc. In that situation, did you underexpose their faces by a stop / stop and a half?

 

"I usually underexpose a backlit face outdoors by one stop in close-ups, maybe a stop & a half in wide shots depending on how low the sun is."

 

I have heard that from many DP's, underexposing a bit more for the wide shot. Why the difference? Does this make the wide shot look a bit more natural, so the face does not look unnaturally hot compared with the rest of the image?

 

Regards,

 

Raffi Kondy

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depending on your budget ,with the sun behind the person looking at camera -

 

use an uncorrected HMI into a 6x6 frame - with appropriate diffusion on the frame

Or hold a big mirror on stands and bounce the sunlight into the 6x6 frame

 

The HMI is easier to adjust with the moving sun

Don't forget to adjust for wides and Close ups

 

You will not have much time for a low sun horizon shot (sun in shot) - so make sure your talent are out of makeup way before they need to be

 

thanks

 

Rolfe

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