How to Avoid Unwanted Backlight

Backlight can look very nice. It can create a halo around a person and helps make a 2D image appear three dimensional and layered. However, there are times when the backlight is too intense or it could be causing interference. Here are some tips to help you avoid unwanted backlight.

Too Much Spill

You want the light to just hit the back of the model, but the beam is much wider than that. Back light is supposed to be subtle, but instead there is a ton of light spilling out of that direction making it look like another source, and maybe even creating double shadows. You want to use another, smaller light, but you don't have it. Here's how you can get around it.

  • Flag It: Shape and cut the unwanted spill by setting flags around your light. Flags are made out of heavy duty black cloth that is sewed onto frames. You'll need c stands to attach the flags in place. You may have to use four flags to cut the sides and the top and bottom of the light.
  • Snoots: A snoot is a specially made accessory that slides in front of the light. It has a small hole in the middle with a long tube. It will make a light's bean narrower and more spotty. Snoots are custom fitted for the lights they belong to. 
  • Black Wrap: You should always have black wrap with you when you shoot. A roll costs about thirty bucks and is very useful. Black wrap is black aluminum foil that can be easily shaped to help you cut light. If you don't have a snoot, flags or time, you can quickly make a snoot out of black wrap.

Lens Flare

Lens Flare occurs when a light is shinning directly into your camera's lens. Usually the culprit is your backlight. To kill the lens fare without altering your backlight, you need to set a lenser. A lenser is a flag that gets positioned out of frame between the light and the camera. You know the lenser is in place when you see that bright light over the lens turn dark.

Too Intense

Maybe you're in a studio and the backlight is up in the air over the subject. If your subject needs to move, you may find the light to be too intense when they get close to it. There are half scrims that you can drop into the light. One half of the scrim is covered with steel net to take down the intensity, while the other half is open so light can pass through unobstructed. This way your exposure stays even and you can keep shooting without stopping to relight.


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