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Day 23: Shooting into the Backlight

Lesson 35 from: 28 Days of Portrait Photography

Sue Bryce

Day 23: Shooting into the Backlight

Lesson 35 from: 28 Days of Portrait Photography

Sue Bryce

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Lesson Info

35. Day 23: Shooting into the Backlight


Class Trailer

Day 1


First 2 Years: The Truth


Teaching 2 Photographers in 28 Days


Rate Your Business


Year One in Business


Day 2


28 Challenges




Price & Value


Checklist, Challenges, and Next Steps


Day 3


Day 1: The Natural Light Studio


Day 4


Day 2: Mapping Your Set and Outfits


Day 5


Day 3: One Composition - Five Poses


Day 6


Day 4: Flow Posing


Day 7


Day 5: Posing Couples


Day 8


Day 6: Capturing Beautiful Connection & Expression


Day 9


Day 7: The Rules - Chin, Shoulders, Hands


Day 10


First Weekly Q&A Session


Day 8: Rules - Hourglass, Body Language, Asymmetry, Connection


Day 11


Day 9: Styling & Wardrobe


Day 12


Day 10: Shooting Curves


Day 13


Day 11: Posing & Shooting - Groups of 2, 3, and 4


Day 14


Day 12: Posing & Shooting Families


Day 15


Day 13: Products & Price List


Day 16


Day 14: Marketing & Shooting the Before & After


Day 17


Day 15: Phone Coaching & Scripting


Day 18


Second Weekly Q&A Session


Day 16: Posing Young Teens


Day 19


Day 17: Marketing & Shooting - Family First Demographic


Day 20


Day 18: The Corporate Headshot


Day 21


Day 19: Glamour Shoot on Location & Shooting with Flare


Photoshop Video: Glamour Shoot on Location & Shooting with Flare


Day 22


Day 20: Photoshop - Warping & the Two Minute Rule


Day 23


Day 21: Posing Mothers & Daughters


Day 24


Third Weekly Q&A Session


Day 22: Marketing & Shooting - 50 & Fabulous Demographic


Day 25


Day 23: Shooting into the Backlight


Bonus: Shooting into the Backlight


Day 26


Day 24: Marketing & Shooting - Girl Power Demographic (18-30s)


Photoshop Video: Girl Power Demographic (18-30s)


Day 27


Day 25: The Beauty Shot


Bonus: Vintage Backdrop


Day 28


Day 26: Marketing & Shooting - Independent Women Demographic


Day 29


Day 27: Sales & Production


Day 30


Day 28: Posing Men


Day 31


Bonus: Pricing




Photography, Style, Brand, and Price Part 1


Photography, Style, Brand, and Price Part 2


Marketing Part 1


Marketing Part 2


Money: What's Blocking You?


Bonus: The Folio Shoot


Day 32


Photo Critiques Images 1 through 10


Photo Critiques Images 11 through 27


Photo Critiques Images 28 through 45


Photo Critiques Images 47 through 67


Photo Critiques Images 68 through 84


Photo Critiques Images 85 through 105


Photo Critiques Images 106 through 130


Photo Critiques Images 131 through 141


Photo Critiques Images 142 through 167


Photo Critiques Images 168 through 197


Photo Critiques Images 198 through 216


Day 33


Identify Your Challenges


Identify Your Strengths


Getting Started Q&A


Rate Your Business


Marketing Vs Pricing


Facing Fear


The 28 Day Study Group


Selling Points


Interview with Susan Stripling


Emotional Honesty


Day 34


Sue's Evolution


28 Days Review


Student Pitches


28 Days Testimonial: Mapuana Reed


How to Pitch: Starting a Conversation


Your Block: Seeing is What You're Being


Your Block: Valuing and Receiving


Building Confidence: Your Own Stories


Building Confidence: Your Self Worth


Pitching An Experience


Pitching An Experience: Your Intentions


Pitching An Experience: Social Media


Final Thoughts


Lesson Info

Day 23: Shooting into the Backlight

Hi everyone, today's challenge is all about the backlight. I need you to master this backlight. This is, without doubt, one of the most requested images in my folio. Every single time somebody comes into my studio, they always point out these images. Today, I'm going to break it down from 101, putting a curtain up, then someone stands in front of it, reflecting light back to their face, and shooting gorgeous, natural light portraits into the backlight. Enjoy, I want you to master this and take gorgeous, beautiful beautiful backlight beauty images. So today, we're going to talk about mastering the backlight. You know, ever since I started shooting on the backlight, it's probably one of the most requested images that I have in my folio. Particularly when I started to photograph other portrait photographers or other photographers, I would always say to people, "what images do you love the most about my work?" and all of them would say anything on the backlight. It's actually quite difficu...

lt to do sometimes, that backlight, in a daylight studio. I love the flare as well outside, but we don't have flare, so we might try and find some this afternoon, but right now, I just want to show you how I shoot the backlight and how you can master it in your studio. I'm going to give you three scenarios. One of them is just sitting in front of a window with a curtain on it. This is any window. You can sit in front of any window with light behind it. Your biggest problem is getting enough light to the face of your client. You want her to look good. Now, I expose for the face and the face is always darker than the light behind and so it always blows out. The background always blows out because you're exposing for the face, so you put the background up a few stops. I'm going to show you some sort of bad, good, and trial and error. You can have a look at this. What I'm going to do is I'm going to just take a photo. Oh, I'll pose you first, let's get you up here. How about you put your right foot up and under your knee, so nice and up on the box there, that's it. Just right there, you've got a comb sitting on your leg. Just throw that on the floor, right down there, that's good. Okay, from here, I want this hand to slide over back around your body line and tuck your elbow in. Good girl, so come to the outside of your thigh, there, now scooch this way, everything goes this way, so that you can lean that hand there like you were doing. That's right, a little bit more, and always point your toes and bring them towards me, both of them, so this one comes right up onto its toe in the front and this one points out this way. That's it, point them out nice and long, nice long point toes always look long legs. And what I'll do is I'll just sit you up nice and tall. I'll just sit you into here, perfect. Now, bring your chin back to me this way, Sherry, that's it. Give me a slight tip, there, stop. Perfect, don't move. All right, from this sitting position, I always sort of start no different than I take any of my other shoots. I just need you to come towards me. That's it, now tuck this elbow in. Now come towards me a little wee bit more. You got it, nice and close, perfect. From here, I'll take them into position. I'm just going to take a couple shots for you and show you what to do, what not to do, and we'll look at settings on our camera. When I expose just for her face, so when I come right up and she really dominates the image, just bring your chin down to me, little bit more down, stop, lips together and just a tiny little smile in your eyes. Currently there, and you can have a look how it's coming off my camera, I will show you, see how dark that is? I'm shooting this, I'm at 320 ISO, I'm at 2.8. So from 320 ISO, I'm just going to bump my exposure, metering the camera up. So this is the only time I ever shoot where I watch the back of the camera. Don't trust the settings. When you shoot on the black background and somebody's wearing a black dress, they look very dark and the meter in the camera reads all of that dark and it says it's too dark, we need to bump the exposure up, so that's where I shoot usually one stop under because I look at the back of the camera and I can tell that their skin is blowing up because the exposure is reading a little bit incorrectly, it gets confused. In this light, in daylight, the camera is reading all the white light in there and it's saying you need to bring your exposure down. At a normal exposure meter and camera, I feel like it is shooting too underexposed, so I always bump my meter up about one, 1.5 stops. If I do that now, I'm going to show you, going to take it up and then I'm here, just push your chin towards me a little wee bit, good girl, that's perfect. Then I'm starting to get more information. I can tell straight away the difference between the first image and the second one is exposing better, so always shooting a little high. Follow your chin around with me here, stop. Okay, straighten your head up to me a little bit. Lift up nice and tall and bring your chin only, just your chin, not your shoulders, chin towards me and down, little bit more, yeah, just your chin. I know it's hard but like this. Good girl, now straighten up, stop, and then chin down a little bit. Relax your mouth, lips together, tiny little smile on your mouth, there it is. All right, so from here, when she dominates that frame, and just bring your chin down to me just a tickle, little bit more, stop. Then I know I can just pump up this exposure a little bit here and I get this perfect shot. When you first start doing this, chin down just a little wee bit more, down, down, down. Okay, there you go, beautiful, big smile. Good girl, love that. Okay, now let me try and do one and I'll change my settings on my camera and we'll see what happens. So remembering I'm always shooting at 160 ISO and I'm always around 2.8 because I love it, but let's go up to four, let's imagine that you have a lens that can only shoot at four. Okay, so I just need you to straighten up a little wee bit to me, straighten your head up as well, bring your chin around this way, and just bring your chin towards me. That's it, come back halfway, stop, good girl. Okay, from here, chin down just a tickle, that's it, lips together, tiny little smile in your eyes, you got it. So at 4.0, I'm at 60 shutter speed at 160, I'm going to shoot that and look how dark I am. Even though it's metering perfectly in my camera, the only way that I can get that up is to shoot at one, 1.5 stops over. Just relax your eyes, Sherry, and just bring your chin down just a touch, that's a girl. And so I have a look in there, that's two stops over. To me, it's still not, so we're going to pump up our ISO so we're at 320 now. 320 and now my shutter speed is at 60. I'm 1.5 stops over, chin down just a little bit, down down down, good girl, stop, that's beautiful. All right, now it's coming up and I'm still 1.5 stops over. I'm at 4.0, so I'm going to put my ISO up to 640. So I want more light and I want to just do that. Here we are, 1.5 stops, I'm at 80 shutter speed, so it's nice and fast. I'm at 4.0 at 640. There it is, right there, much better, so you've got to come up on your ISO, but I want to expose for their face, not their background. Really, really important. Any higher in my ISO, let's take it up and see what grain we get, because I'm going to process this on Photoshop so that you can get this right. Okay, so just chin forward and down, so now I'm on 1.5 stops over, 4.0, 125 on my shutter speed and I'm at 1000 ISO. Right, that's looking good. Let's go up a little bit more and let's take it up to 1600 ISO. Straighten your head up to me, bring your chin around this way, that's a girl and chin towards me, more, more, that's it, stay there. Okay, you're just going off again, so stand up nice and tall, drop your shoulders down. That's it, keep this one around, long chin towards me. Stay there, just this way, that's it, long chin towards me and down, down, down, stop, good girl. So here we are here, we are at 1.5 over, now we're at 250, so we're really speeding up our shutter speed, we're pushing our ISO up, sorry, got a blink, wait there. Okay, we got 1600 ISO, push your chin towards me and down. Keep going, that's it, stop. All right, no smile, just lips together, hon. There you go. Now I'm going to bump it up again. We're going to see how high we can take it. 2000 ISO, really nice and fast shutter speed now, but I wouldn't get up here. I wouldn't even get up here in this ISO unless it was the darkest of all days. I'm going to take you right up to just so when we process it, we can see the difference. Push your chin towards me, straighten your head up a little wee bit, Sherry, that way, stop, push chin forward and down, so we go this way first and then towards me and then down. Notice everything we've been talking about for the last month, everybody has a default setting, and Sherry keeps defaulting back to that and so I just keep bringing her back and she defaults to that. Everybody's default setting is exactly the same. Okay, pushing your chin towards me and drop those shoulders down just a little bit, darling, so they're not so pinned back, that's the one, perfect. Push your chin towards me now, relax your mouth, and we are at 3200, oops, sorry, I did it again. Chin down, that's it. We're at 3200 ISO, we're at 500 shutter speed, so we're nice and fast, and we'll take the grain on that when we process, but as you can see from every single one of the images, the background is blowing out just enough that I'm not getting any curtain color or shape. The only time I'm ever going to get any curtain color is if I'm too underexposed. I'm exposing for the face, so I'm going to go back to 320 or 640 ISO, because that was my favorite. I'm going to open it up to 2.8, because I love that dropaway and what I'm going to do is I'm going to shoot it a little bit under, oh, there it is. So I'm going to shoot it a little bit under so that you can see. Wow, that's incredible. That background, and I'm going to slowly bracket it until it comes up. And then I'm going to keep coming, there you go, and I'm going to put all these settings when we process on the foyer, so basically, I started at two stops under. Oh, let's do that one properly there without a blink. All right, so here I am. That's where I want to be. I'm currently shooting this at 2.8. I'm at 160 shutter speed, I'm at 640 ISO, and I'm two stops over, so I've got a perfect exposure on her face, information under here. There's no grain, or not too grainy. Chin forward and down, Sherry, that's beautiful. Don't move, that was gorgeous, and here I am here. I've been through all of my brackets and I've been through everything and that is where I want to shoot. I would neither go up to the faster shutter speed and really big ISO unless they were moving. Unless she was moving or dancing. So what is really important here is that I'm exposing for the face. The big key is this: the reason that I can do this so well right here is because there's a lot of light in this room reflecting back to her face. Now usually we don't have that and what I would normally do without all this light, if this was my only light source, come and sit and I'll show them how to do this, I would bring this right up to here, so I would shoot with a reflector that close to her, so I would really literally be bouncing light behind her back to her face, both sides, like that. I would have two big reflectors here and here and I would leave a gap big enough just to shoot through, so I would have two reflectors on the floor like that, thank you, and I would be just through that gap and I would make sure that there was enough light bouncing back to her face. That reflector there will put a stop of light on her face. All right, so what I do here, going to record this, is you need to go a little lower with your thighs and bring your, no no no, stay hovering, that's a girl, but bring your elbows under your shoulders or your shoulders over your elbows, either one that works. It's kind of a thighmaster workout. This backlight, what you're wearing right now, couldn't be more perfect because you've got lace and its soft colors and the light is incredible, so to me, this is my favorite sort of bleedy-type image. What I want to do is just get these hands sit where I want them, so I would just like this hand here to come on the inside and then slide through that way, so slide your elbow, just mirror me, good girl, all the way through. Stop, that's exactly right, now sitting up nice and tall and bring your chin towards me now and then stay there. From here, to me, these beauty images to me always look like Estee Lauder. It's really the quintessential beauty shot. I look at these sort of shots and I just think these are the shots that, you know, you see in magazines, and I know that when fashion is shot with a beauty dish and they've got that nice white light behind them, all I wanted to do was learn how to replicate it without artificial light. One of my all-time favorite shots became this one. Pull back with your shoulders a little wee bit more and sit up nice and tall, just bring your chin only. So what I love about this is the way Sherry's sitting, not just in her outfit. As I can see through this space here, so I can see light coming around her body, have a look how beautiful this is from my angle, so just tip your chin down ever so slightly and a tiny little smile in your eyes. Now, I settled with 640 ISO at 2.8 and that is magnificent. I want nice, soft fingers in the front, ballet fingers, good girl. Beautiful manicure too, by the way. Long chin towards me a little bit this way. From this position here, chin down, I just felt like I was suddenly taking images that I knew that everybody would love. These are our options here, let's look at them. We can do the beauty shot, we can do the ottoman lying down. This shot looks absolutely incredible. On the lying down chase, wrapped in a white sheet, it's just fresh and it looks like that gorgeous, I just got out of bed, I'm still in bed, you know, gorgeous look. That's on my website, too. That would be one of my most requested shots. For younger girls, we can sit our back against here, so let's do that now, we'll slide this box out that way. Actually, Susan, are you able to come around and grab that out? And I just want you to come and sit down. Oh, you just lost a bead. I will take that out there. You're out of frame, right. So from here, slide your bum away from the wall just ever so slightly and just lean back. I use exactly the same position standing in the sitting position, but just make sure that you, push that elbow back, that's a girl, there, nice soft arm in the front. See the light coming through there? That, to me, is beautiful. Bring this chin around this way to the front, good girl. That's perfect, and I use the backlight here against the white wall. Now, always wanting to shoot below the eye line here. Long chin towards me, end down. Always wanted to shoot here. Now, just bring your chin forward and down to me a little wee bit more, down down down, down. Keep going, good girl, stop. There it is, right there. Now, I love using that half light, half wall. That's something I've always done in the studio and I've always, always had that in my folio as well. I think it just looks so fresh. Let's have a look at the difference, oh, I just got to get this naughty curl. Let's have a look at the difference between shooting this on a backlight and shooting this on a plain white wall as well, because I'd love to show you the difference there. Again, I'm exposing exactly the same, no different than when she's standing in front of the window light. I just think it's oh, fresh, beautiful. We can do exactly the same poses as we've just done standing up, so let's stand up and I'll change my camera. All right, so what I want you to do is lean against this wall exactly like you were doing sitting, but just use the back of your arm here, so turn 45 degrees away from me. Put this hand down and just touch the back of your bum that way. So it's really easy if you push your body away from the wall and just bring that hand there, good girl. This hand comes up onto your thigh instead of hip and then slides it around about, ow. I can't get my words on it, aberdown. Up or down and upper back. Yeah, right back, just relax it down. Now drop your shoulders, perfect. I want you to turn away from me just a little wee bit more and everyone turns their face, and I just want you to bring your chin. You put your chin around like that, so I just want you to bring it normally back here. That's it, long chin towards me now. Push, push, push, push. That's it, long chin this way a bit, stop. You're in my backlight on my wall, so I'm just going to show everyone this shot here, have a look, is absolutely incredible on that backlight. What I love about it just is how completely soft, beautiful it is. I love that white light coming through. I can shoot this nice and close up here. Now what I do when I show, just go lips together Sherry, and tiny little smile in your eyes, chin down just a touch, little bit more, little bit more, you got it, cute. What I'm going to do is take you over here, exactly the same pose but without the backlight. I just want you to lean on the back of your arm, turn your body all the way away from me, good girl, chin all the way back, not so far, Sherry. Just bring your chin back, that's a girl, now push it down, beautiful, little smile in your eyes. So this here is exactly the same shot and I'm going to do a closer version of it. Exactly the same shot as the backlight without the backlight. The whole point is that the backlight to me brings a whole new dimension to this shot. If you come back here again and stand right here. Even when they're freestyling, when they're standing right in front of the window like this, just do a quintessential Cover Girl, put your hands out flat like that, pull your elbows back, so like you're bending your elbows out on a tabletop but now drop your shoulders forward, that's a girl, perfect, now long chin towards me and just straighten your head up to me a little bit. That's it, don't move. Just going to bring your curls through, gorgeous. All right, now pushing your chin towards me, just straighten up a little bit more this way, that's it. Push your chin towards me and down. That's the one, so from this position, drop your shoulders, Sherry. That's it, bring your chin down now, down a little wee bit more, and lips together, just a tiny little smile, there you go. Even freestyling in the center, I absolutely love what this is doing. So there is nothing I can't do in this pose, barstool, knee up, hand across, ottoman, chase, white sheet, ottoman, chase, casual shot, young girl sitting down on the wall, knees, arms up, use the wooden floor, make it Running Magazine, make it Cover Girl, but what we've got to do is just sure that they are getting perfect amount of light to their face. I've got some really good lighting scenarios to show you, opening in Raw files. If you are opening in Raw on Photoshop or processing in a light room, this shot is going to be a lot easier for you because the whole point is that-- You can relax your hands. The whole point is the processing is going to make it so much easier when you can use the Recovery tool on the background. I've got some really good examples of when the background is dropped and sort of a little bit underexposed and you can see the curtains and I'm going to show you how to remove the white curtain. I know that there is always questions around the sort of curtain I use. For this program, we've shot natural light studio, so we showed three different ways to diffuse light, but remember it's as simple as using a sheer curtain, polyester chiffon, organza, but preferably something without a sheen to it. If you're going to use wide-knit curtains, not lace curtains or big holes, the cotton curtains are always the best. I use packaging, white paper, anything that's going to diffuse the amount of light that's coming through here right now is going to make this a beautiful shot. Now, as you can see with this one here, it's just such simple polyester chiffon. It's four dollars a meter, it's so easy to buy, and have a look at that, it's diffusing a lot of light through there. It's just absolutely perfect. As long as it's not too opaque and as long as you can bring the light back to her, so lots of reflector boards on this side to bounce the light back to her face. What I'm going to do now is I'm going to take a couple of shots of Sherry in just an aqua colored top, I'm going to do a beauty shoot, and then I'm going to move her back into that corner scenario that we just put her into, which is not backlit, but I'm going to show you if there's enough light on that background, I can make it look a little more backlit. If you've got too much light coming through your window right now and you need to cut down and you can't diffuse more light, you can pull her away from that light and shoot against a white wall and give the illusion of being backlit, so let's try that. What I want you to do, Sherry, is bring your chin towards me here, good girl, push it forward. This is my favorite shot, always has been. Right from the beginning of all shooting time for me, the first thing I'm going to do is walk somebody towards the edge of a window and photograph them. I think if I look back, chin down just a little bit, relax your eyes for me. When I look back over my career, I know that this shot here has been my signature shot. Just take half a step away for me, and now I want you to take your weight on your left foot and just tip down until you touch the wall with your shoulder, no, this shoulder. That's a girl, perfect. When I bring somebody to the edge of a window like this, just like this, I know I'm going to get an incredible shot because all my light is coming from here straight to there. Tip away from the wall, that's it, and just come down there. Now, I know when I get this that this is where I begin, this is what I love, and this is great. Now just relax those eyes down a little wee bit for me. Good girl, little wee smile in your mouth. Don't bring your eyes too wide, that's it. Little wee bit more smile, we got you there. Every single time, this is a shot I'm going to go to, but have a look at this. When I started to shoot into the window light, I realized I could do a rotation around here, so if I come from here, just follow me with your chin. Not your body, your chin. If I start to walk around here, now bring your chin with me all the way. Actually, turn your body away from me as well. Keep going, keep going, bring your chin back, stop. Then, long chin, I realized that I could start walking around here and then, hang on, little bit too high on my exposure, I can take another step and keep coming. Now, all this set in, I realized that I could start using a little bit more of this light. Come into the window a little bit more, maybe half and half, like step across, that's a girl. Now bring your chin back this way. Now from here, I realized that I could start shooting people half on their backlight, so I could start doing a little bit of a making it look like it was half backlit. Chin forward and down, that's it, stay there. And then if I keep coming around, one more step, turn your body towards me. All right, lean back against the wall with your bum. That's it, perfect, and just put your thumbs into your jeans and then just kick one hip out and relax. Up or down, up or down in this side, good girl. Now straighten your head up to me and go long chin towards me. Now here I am right on the edge of the window light and let me see if this works and how this works. What I said to you about faking the backlight, let's have a look. Now I want you to move into the backlight. That's it, stay there, we're here, just relax those eyes down, that's a girl, and now step into the backlight a little bit more. Now you can't lean, that's okay, so now, just relax there. As she comes across, you'll see, now come across a little bit more, you will see that as she steps into this backlight, now my exposure's changing dramatically, so I'm just going to look through these shots. What I started to do was I realized that when she came into the backlight half and half, this is when I started shooting the backlight a little bit more. Sometimes I feel like when they're all on the white, it's a little bit too much, so I just started shooting on the edge. When you start shooting on the edge, it actually looks really, really good and there's lots of beautiful light coming through here. Now, what makes a significant difference in my camera is when I bring reflectors in so what I'm going to do is set up a live view right from here to show you the difference in the cameras. You stay still and you guys give me a little second to set it up. I'm going to bring in reflectors so that you can really see how I shoot when there's no cameras filming me because remember, I use big reflectors for a reason. So stay there, Sherry, I'm going to leave my settings aside and I'm going to set it up for you. Now what I've done, as you can see, I've left Sherry in exactly the same space and I just put these two reflectors up here and here. When I pull my camera up and I have a look and I take a shot exactly as I did before, just soften those eyes down for me. Little bit more, little bit more smile. That's a girl, stay there. I am one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine stops. I got nine, well, it's more like three stops, but it's going down in the link. What I'm doing now is, have a look at that, it's crazy. It's brought in so much beautiful light back to her face. This is where we want to be in an ideal situation, shooting through this crack just like this. It's a small crack, it's enough to get my head through, but it's amazing flat light reflected straight back from the window to her face and it's just absolutely perfect in terms of creating a little natural light beauty. Just push your chin towards me under your chin. That's it more, more, that's it, stop. I can get right up into here, just relax those eyes down, little tiny smile on your lips, good girl, got it. And there it is, there's my shot, lots of reflected light. Now remember, she can dance in this light, she can do beauty shots, she can do Cover Girl, she can do so many different things, but what we have to do is get this exposure right, we have to get this reflected light right. Today, I'm very lucky, because I got lots of big windows, but the big windows also work against you when you've got too much light, so just making sure you can cut it down, diffuse it, and bounce it around, expose, and focus always on the eye. Try not to let your exposure get over because it just gets too grainy, but I've shot right up to 3200 today, so let's open them on Photoshop and see the base results that we're getting, the sharpest results we're getting, and hopefully most of you are shooting on Raw so that you can edit on Raw and use your recovery tool for any blown out highlights. Let's try and get as much information in our camera as we can and then I'm also going to show you how to bracket and use that in your Photoshop editing. If you do have too much light in the background and if you need to switch out a background. So when I say bracket, I mean expose lower for the background to bring the light down and then expose higher for the face and then merge those two images together if you cannot get a median in between. So let's open these in Photoshop and see how we go. For our natural backlight challenge, I'm going to open the bracketed shots that we took in the window. Have a look at this. Completely no face and you can see the curtain. As you can see up here on the top right-hand side, this is the only thing I want you to monitor over here. I'm going to keep my camera settings there for you. I'm shooting at an F-stop of 2.8, it's my favorite F-stop, and only changing the shutter speed, so as you can see, I'm ISO and my preferred ISO 160, 320, and 640. I'm shooting on my 35 mount. (slurps) Taking a drink of water because I've been talking all morning. Sorry about that. Right, here we go. You can see as I change and total up my shutter speed I can start to expose for her and now my background is exposed perfectly, but she's of course not, and then slowly, I'm coming into her. Now she's exposed properly, but the background is pushed a little bit too far, and that's at a shutter speed of and now she's gone over and the background's gone way over, so I've toggled right out, only changing my shutter speed. Let's have a look here. I've gone back to there. This is kind of where I want to be, but let's get real and let's imagine for one minute that you did it, you screwed it up, and now we see if we can save it. The first thing I do when I open my role window in Photoshop is hit obviously Auto and Default and it's not giving me anything. I can look at my exposure and see if I can lift it up through here. Clearly, this image is long gone. Not worth saving, not enough information, even if I was to bring out the blacks. In there, it would just not be there. Let's see if this one's saveable. This one here, again, I think she's blinking anyway. Even if I bring out my brightness, my exposure, no, it's still pushed too far, yeah. She's blinking because I was at the point where I was just taking a photo. I wasn't too interested. Right, here we go. Remember in my camera, I told you that I'm going two stops over? Let's just have a look at this. The recovery tool takes away any burned-in highlight, so if I apply the recovery tool right up to 88, it's giving me information in here. There's a little bit of information missing and what I'm hearing from a lot of people is they're getting this, they're getting the stripes of the curtain, so I'm going to show you how I remove that. Currently, if I go back to here, to the order in default, this is how I shot it. What I'm going to do is I'm going to open two images, one exposing for the face and one exposing for the background. Now remember, I told you if you get to the stage where you don't have a reflector, you know you only have two options, and that is to photograph one for her face and the other one for the background and see what you get. Then let's have a look, how about we do this one for her face, I don't care how blown-out that is, and we do this one for the background, so I'm going to bring the brightness down, I'm going to take the recovery up just to take the burn off that background, but see, I can see some blue coming through here. That tells me it's underexposed, it doesn't have a lot of information, so we don't want to push that too far because we don't want it to come up and I'm just going to drop my contrast down so I'm not pushing what is there. This is just reading the background. We're going to open these, too, and we're going to put them together. Ultimately, I would probably take this exposure and lit that blowout exactly like that, so I'm going to show you how I would, those two images. I'm going to show you how I would put them together. This one, I did the extreme, I pushed it too far. If I go to auto and let it select an auto, that's where it feels comfortable reading. So what I can do is go to auto, advanced, bring up my brightness, maybe change my exposure, but again, I'm saving something that I shouldn't have got wrong. Our midrange is definitely our strongest point, so here we are here, lit quickly, open those two and show you how to edit them to perfection. Okay, the next one down. The next one on the challenge was, I showed you how to shoot into that backlight and this is perfect, this is beautifully exposed straight out of camera, so there it is. I'm going to take my recovery up just to save that highlight through there. The only thing that bugs me in this image is the integration into that shadow on the wall and I'm going to show you how to get around that. We've got good light coming through here. Now, this is exactly the same pose, but done on the white corner where the window was on the far left hand side, so she still has a backlight, but it's not directly behind her. It's coming in from that angle and heading behind her, so she still doesn't have any light to the face so what I'm going to do is I'm going to up that, I'm just going to use my recovery to take the highlight off the wall. She's still got a backlight feel and I'm going to show you how to make that more so. If you're finding it too difficult to shoot straight back into the light, I'm going to show you how to shoot back into the light without shooting into the light, if you know what I mean. Let's mark those two so that we know to open them and I like both of them and I'm going to show you how to retouch them. Also, in the challenge, I put her on the edge of the window and see her highlight is quite blown out here so I'm going to lift my highlight with recovery and drop my contrast very slightly so that I have a more even tone across her face. Very, very important, you can take the recovery right up, don't take the contrast down too low, otherwise you start losing the blacks. You can take the black line down just to remove the blacks, but again, if you take too much black out of her contrast, you lose too much contrast in the image and it doesn't look good. Let's even this out, we're going up on our recovery because we want to save this here, and then we're coming down on our contrast, perfect. As I'm slowly bringing her into the backlight, so you could shoot them on the half backlight, you could shoot right there. It's actually quite amazing but do watch the difference, because it's kind of cool. I'm going to take my recovery up to save that whole image. See the big shift there, take it down, drop my contrast down so I brought my recovery up, my contrast down, my brightness down. Not a good shot, so here anyway, but it's not about her expression, we're just showing light. I do like shooting half into the light like this. It especially looks good in lingerie or white lingerie or pink lingerie. We're coming right in there now, up on the recovery, this is all just about light so far. Remember, if you need some light in the front, you can fill light to the front, but mostly you'll find you don't need to, because it just blows out too much there. We're looking good with our light, she's slowly coming into the back light, so controlling it and then she's here. Then what we did was I brought those big reflectors in, I brought them right up to her. I reflected as much light back to her as I could, okay, and she's right in the light here and then I got this, and then I shot through the whole of the reflector. Now I have a perfect backlight and now I have more light to her, so what I'm going to do is up my recovery and I have all this light hitting her in the front, so where I have no information in their hair on the outside, I'm now here and I've got lots more to work with and as I come closer, it exposes even better because the camera is finding it easier to read, to meter to her face when I'm closer to her and now I have this beautiful halo and going to take my contrast down, the blacks are sitting at five, I'm going to take them to three, and I'm going to keep coming down. Now I'm going to star that one for you. Exactly the same there and exactly the same there, so now what I'm going to do, because I want to correct these images all exactly the same I'm going to highlight them all, so you can either hit shift and top and bottom or you can command them all. I'm going to synchronize and the synchronize will sync the corrections from these images here to the other four. I'll just mark them as being open and just bringing her into that light, let's have a look at that progression again because you can watch it on the video as it's being shot, but it's really neat for you to see and then we put it here and I put a flower in her hair. We were here on the edge, right there on the edge of the light and she slowly started to come into the light and I could shoot somebody on that half light and then as they come in, what was the most-- The front of her, meaning the light source behind her was brighter than the light source in front of her, of course, because it's backlit, but I needed to able to lift, it was too far off, so I needed to be able to lift my exposure to her face, but I couldn't do that with that light behind her, so I brought in a reflector to bounce that light back to her to even that expression and then as soon as I got into here, I had something I could work with and it's beautiful and that's where you want to be. So just going through, making sure you've got a good correction before you open them. Remember, the recovery tool will help you get information around the outside of the hair, which is definitely a bonus. We'll get it down, I like that. Let's open them and see how we go. Now, one more there, see the light? Oh, that brings that edge up a lot, doesn't it? And she looks so pretty. This one here, you'll see in the video, I was shooting back towards the light, I saw the error that I was making, fundamental error, I'm going to have to retouch this out. Too many photographers retouching stuff out instead of fixing it in camera. I am guilty of this, I make no secret of that. I jumped out, I put a white reflector there, and I put it back again. Notice in the backlit shot, there is going to be this line here. I'm going to show you how to work that gradient. (phone notification) That's going to be really, really easy. That's my phone going off because it's not on silent. Sorry about that. Okay, you can see she's lying on a white board, I've got this backlight, much better. So I changed it that way, I changed it this way, so let's have a look at that result. I'm going to show you how to fix this, because this happens. I'm going to show you how to fix this fast. Instead of pretending that it doesn't happen, let's just say it does and how would I fix it? So I'm going to show you that. Love her beautiful big smile. Let's get that one, that one, that one, that one, and I want those two, perfect, and then I want the two that I can integrate the face and we'll open these images up in Photoshop. So here we are here. The first one is this one here. The first thing I do, whenever I work on backgrounds, you know I love cloning, cloning's worked out for me. Cloning is the be-all and end-all of quick retouching for me but I use the healing tool when I use anything for the background. Because the healing tool is fast, it's not very accurate. I can clone almost as fast, but when it is accurate, it just works. I wouldn't use the healing tool here on this gradient. When I'm recording, my computer slows down, so if you just give me a little bit of time, sorry about that. I could sing to you, maybe I could sing. I'm going to show you a little trick that I used for 100 years. See, that just annoys me, because let's have a look at how quickly I could do this with clone stamp. I do wonder sometimes why I use the healing tool at all, because when it doesn't work, it is really annoying. Right, let's have a look at this. We have an interesting gradient going on here and I don't like that, so I think this still got too much burn in it but what I need to do is block that instead of trying to lift it in recovery, so if I create a layer mask over the top and then I turn the top layer off and I go to the bottom layer and I go to curves and just drop my highlights, then it stands to reason that I'm just dropping through that really white section here. But then I'll lose her, so I turn that top layer back on and then I can just erase back here, so not her, but just the part that I want and I can erase back that. I'm erasing back at 90%, and here I am erasing back the bottom layer on live television. Clearly, 90's not going to work. I'm going to go back, this time I'm going to do 20, and just going to bring that dark back up. I can save my highlight that way, that's just one way. If that doesn't work, then obviously I need to look at getting this gradient here and I clone. I clone everything. I even clone light gradients in my background, corners, and walls, yes. What I don't do is clone this, and I'll tell you why. Let's try because, and I'm going to take you back to the start so you can see what I'm doing, I've taken it from bright white to there and we're going to do this quickly, remember? Now I can start doing this like this and ultimately what happens is, let me flatten this, ultimately what happens is I start and it's a never-ending journey because the clone is not a gradient tool and it gets very confused about where to start and where to finish and ultimately, it's just hard work. So how about this, go to your brush tool, B for brush, and I want you to go alt + select this color here, then change that and then go alt + select this color here. So what I've done is I've selected this color and this color, then I go to my lasso, I go down right to where I want to do and I go up, and then I go to there, and I create a new layer. This new layer exists only from here to here. Then I go to my gradient tool, which is here, gradient, and I apply a line across the center which takes a gradient from the darkest to the lightest. Takes a little while to make this work. Then I've got two choices. When I turn my layer off, I can still see a very faint little line around here. My choice is I can either erase that edge back, just very gently fiddle that back with my erasing tool at 10% like that on either side and it totally gets rid of that there, that gradient. Now remember, all I've done is sample the backdrop and put a layer. This still exists as a layer, there it is. So if I push it back again, I push it back to here, you'd never know that it was there. When I'm happy with that and I think I've hit all of my layer on and off, I can simply flatten that and that's how I clean up the background with a gradient layer. It really works, it's absolutely amazing how easy it is. Let's move on from here, because remember we were there and remember that we were shooting in a stupid situation when we could fix it to that. We're going to fix it again. We're in short, close quarters. We don't have a lot of room to shoot. I want to make sure that we're getting the most out of our studio and we're shooting in the right place and that I'm teaching you that. So we crop that there, I lighten it up, and at the end of the day it comes down to this: I need to remove this. I have two choices, obviously, and one is I can paint in backgrounds, I can make backgrounds appear, but if I can use a real background and get a real texture when filling in backgrounds, then I am always going to do that. My first choice would be to take the right side, flip it, erase back the bit that I want, and then try and make it work this way. If I can't make it work this way, then I'm going to clone my way back. I don't need to keep the wall, I just need to keep it real and keeping it real means any real textures, any real shadows, any real lines will always look real and anything else won't. We got to make sure we don't make them look artificial. The light source is coming from this side of the image and this is dark, so I do have to lighten this image so let's take the depth out of it on our curves. Let's take it out and then I've got to see how much I can really take off, because I still think we could shave off a little bit more, we could make it lighter, and then after I do that, now I can flatten that image and so I'm always, if I have to fix an image because it was the best shot, then I do it, otherwise wouldn't keep it, would have kicked it, would have thrown at the first round because I saw it happening on camera, as you saw in the video, and I fixed it, so there we go. As you know, cloning out the background's starting to get difficult, so don't make it hard on yourself. Erase it back and then save. Erase back your layer, save it, and go from there. So that's that one. Now let's have a look at this. Let's go back to our first image, there, absolutely gorgeous, I love this now. Let's have a look, we want to do our two minute roll on here. You know it's all about two minutes on the clone. There, there, there, puppet lines got to go. From the light of the chin out, I always remove that highlight through there and yes, I am cloning her hair. Be careful, you've got to be quick and you've got to keep your brush small because you're going to get fuzzy areas like this. So if you start to get fuzzy areas, the rule of thumb is go smaller with your brush and higher with your clone stamp, so 60. Fill it in. If you find yourself, it's not working, this is your only other option when it comes to hair. I'm going to keep that lift one, because the lift one, I like. This is your other option here is to go to an area, go copy and paste, pick out that area, put it over, minimize in your opacity until it blends in with the other hair and then go to your erasing tool because whenever you can use real cuts, it's always going to look more authentic, more real. Oh, too far. And then you just blend it in, blend it in, make it work, and soon you'll forget that you ever looked there. Blend the color, bend the lightness, whatever you have to do. Okay, so I do either. Usually I clone, I like cloning in hair. The reason I remove those little holes is I find them distracting. You might not, that's up to you. Okay, then I'm going to go up to here, got to keep it simple, down the bridge of the nose, clean up the forehead, up into the shadow. There. The first thing we're going to do, and remember I don't remove stray hairs until she's bought the image. This is just preparing it for sale. As I put my dodge in here, I put my dodge and pick up the highlight from the reflector because I want to lift her eyes out, put the dodge in there, I put a dodge in here but we don't dodge right out to the corner, just around the iris, around the bottom of the iris, around the outside of the iris, and there she goes. I have a few beautiful little setups here that we can add, and I'm just going to see her pop through there. I'll open that in alien skin, gorgeous, this is my natural light shot. This one here, oop, now we got a flower, exactly the same, gorgeous. It's too easy to create this sort of simplicity. All we did, at the end of the day, when we shifted here into that background was put those two reflectors and those reflectors are just so cheap and so easy and you know, when you put them around people, people just relax because they're encased in their own little corner and they feel safe. They're not out there being watched by everybody, it's such an easy way to shoot. Let's open this one on alien skin and let's try and pick something really pretty that's going to suit this whole mood. The flowers, her beautiful smile. Definitely not like might that we used last night, how about color fading? Let's try something really beautiful. That might be going towards too much pink. Let's come up, there is some really nice, I love this one, oh, I like it colder, actually. And I'm going to click here, oh, I even like that. Oh, yes, I love these tones here. Okay, what if I was to choose this, but then minimize the toning from here, so you watch this pop when it's applied. Just give it a little bit of a second, my computer might run slow when I'm recording. Luckily, I've got lots to say just to keep you all entertained. Looking good today, by the way. I didn't say that, it's like, "hi guys, wow, I love your hair." Okay, there it is, nice little pop. Let's drop that opacity down. So right about 60%, I don't really watch the opacity, I just watch the image and I feel when I feel like it's had enough and I'm just going to drop a cyan in there. Cyan is the opposite to red. I feel like there was too much red. Let's drop another shot of cyan in there and for the people that say, "How did she drop a shot of cyan in there?" I just go Command + b or Control + b, which is the PC version, and that will give you your color wheel and you just go towards cyan a stop. My computer is having a little bit of a freeze, let's take a look. I'm going to put a shot more of cyan, and I can even go a shot of yellow, which takes me away from the blue. It's very subtle, the color. Have a look, I went from a very subtle pink tone to a colder tone, you know that's where I like to be. Absolutely. I can apply the same filter to this backlit image here, although we didn't retouch her face, sort of thing. We didn't need to. Let's see this one pop out. And running, large implication. Okay, way too magenta, so let's take that out back to 70, let's flatten and I'm going to do it the old fashioned way, so Command + b, so that you can see me ting littles as a stop and then up. So we're going towards cyan and away from dark blue, which is blue-red, and we're going more towards cyan-yellow, which is that colder spectrum, which is where I like to be, but not cold enough to make her hair go blue, so there it is there. It takes it away from an everyday-looking photograph into a stylized portrait. This one here was about shooting exactly the same thing but into the backlight. I don't know too much about how much of these I would remove. Sometimes I go to do it, and then I think oh no, I'm not improving this image, I'm not making it better, so I stop. Other times I do it just quickly and it works, and I think yeah, it's going to take those holes out. Really, this one is about putting light in her eyes. She's flat through the eyes because the light source is coming from behind her. That's the problem with the backlight is you don't have that light source in front of you, so you have to make that decision. Okay, let's go to our brush tool again. Let's do a gradient drop. We're going to select there, we're going to move, we're going to select there, we're going to do a right down to that corner, there, there. We're going to select that area as a new layer so that's sitting on top so we can erase it back, otherwise we can't. We're going to go to our gradient tool and go up and that's going to take us from dark to light and we're going to do it in the direction that we want the gradient to move in, so I am going off to the left there. I'll deselect that and then I have two choices, I can either clone, flatten and clone, or just erase back, very gently, that edge and erase back that edge and then just like that, that's our gradient done, flatten that image, put a dodge in her eyes, and apply that beautiful exposure. This one here, I love, she is very, very pink, so let's go straight away before we put anything on and just take her into the cyan, but not too far, take her away from the blues as well into yellow and then apply that filter. We don't need to do anything else to this shot. The backlight is coming in this way, but what I said to you before about making it look more backlit is you're going to now up your curves, so that's a curves adjustment at 10%. Let me show you the old fashioned way. I'm going to take the darks out so it's a nice light image, then what I'm going to do is I'm going to go to my dodge tool and the light source is coming from here and to make it look a little bit more backlit, I'm actually going to exacerbate that by dodging through that little highlight on the back wall, so I'm actually applying more light to her from behind so that you look like she's more backlit and there it is. And now when I apply my filter, even though she's not shot into the light, she's got the highlight coming from the back, it looks contemporary, and as we apply this filter, you'll see the shift there. I hope you enjoy mastering the backlight. It is definitely one of the only images I use when I rely on Photoshop. I can't get it right in camera without a flash, but it's not the flash that I'm trying to replicate because I don't want to shoot with a flash. I hate the shot film-flashed. I don't think it looks as Mario Testino, even though Mario does use lights. I love the shots look like this. I want them to look really organic and really gorgeous and backlit and a little bit grainy, and yes, I like the coldness and I'm definitely, let me just do my curves first, I'm definitely after this look and I think it's perfect. Enjoy this, enjoy mastering it, enjoy shooting it. I look forward to seeing your results and thank you very much, Sherry. Oh, hang on. Before you run away, can I just show you one more? How about this, I forgot this one. My background here is exposed correctly, my foreground is not. I have two choices: I can drop my top image on and erase back and keep that background. Do I need to do that? These cameras these days are amazing and we know that we get, when we first started doing this, you'd be shocked at how much Photoshop we had to do. But if you can't, all I'm saying to you is this: if you can't get the backdrop and get her, take a quick bracketed shot just to save your own bacon. It's really good if you do that anyway. Take a good shot of her, quickly shift your shutter speed, take a good shot of the background so that it looks a little bit more even and then use the two of them together, blend them together, use it as a bracket, headswap, whatever you have to do to get this image perfect until you can either A. get into a better situation where you can filter and reflect light, B. get a better camera, or C. fix a mistake that you've already made that you don't want to make again so you've learned from it. So enjoy this listen today, I look forward to seeing your work on natural backlights. Ciao for now, peeps.

Class Materials

bonus material

Business Checklist
Keynote Part 1
Keynote Part 2
Posing Guide: Set Map and Outfit
Posing Guide: Flow Posing
Posing Guide: Couples Posing
Posing Guide: Curves
Posing Guide: Teen Posing
Posing Guide: Family Posing
Posing Guide: Over 50 Demographic
Posing Guide: Beauty Shot
Posing Guide: Posing Men
How It Works
Styling and Wardrobe

Ratings and Reviews

a Creativelive Student

I have purchased four of Sue's courses and love them all. I have learned so much. I found the lesson on connecting with people thru their eyes has made a huge difference in my photos already. Her before and after's made me cry. I want to be able to take these kinds of photos for my family and friends. I just love what she does. She is such a great teacher. I learn much better seeing things done, so this was the perfect choice for me to learn. I love Sue's humor, her honesty, her detailed teaching and sweet and wonderful personality. Her sessions will or should not disappoint anyone. It is the best money I have ever spent on self-help teaching. Thanks a million creative live. You GOTTA LOVE SUE!


Pure gold. Sue Bryce is likable, talented, funny, and an amazing teacher. She calls you on your BS (your excuses for why you aren't succeeding), gives you business, posing, marketing, pricing and LIFE advice. The class is 58 hours long - and you spend the majority of it looking right over her shoulder, through her lens and watch her walk through many, many photoshoots. She verbally and clearly repeats several critical formulas for success so it's imprinted in your mind. Her advice is crystal clear and your photography will dramatically improve after this class. Before Creative Live, you'd NEVER have had the opportunity to shadow a photographer of her quality... hands down the best photography class I've ever taken.


I have just began this course and I am excited to see how following her model will help me to improve and get my business started. I have been through the first two days and there is lots of information to absorb and things to get in order before I begin the actual challenges. I am thankful that there are photographers out there who are will to reveal there secrets ad are truly invested in others improving themselves in all aspects of their life and not just their photography skills. Thanks Sue Bryce for your passion for empowering woman and your knowledge of creating and sustaining a business by being true to who you and commitment to the improvement of others! I am excited to grow myself and my business, I am confident this will be worth every penny! Were the templates for the email PDF included in this course

Student Work