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Shoot: Backlight with ND Filter

Lesson 23 from: Incredible Engagement Photography

Pye Jirsa

Shoot: Backlight with ND Filter

Lesson 23 from: Incredible Engagement Photography

Pye Jirsa

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Lesson Info

23. Shoot: Backlight with ND Filter

Summary (Generated from Transcript)

In this lesson, the instructor demonstrates how to shoot engagement photography using backlighting and an ND filter. The class covers topics such as posing, choosing the right lens, adjusting camera settings for desired lighting effects, and using a square ND filter to control light and color temperature.


  1. What is the purpose of having the couple stand on boxes in the shot?

    The boxes help elevate the couple to create a better composition and allow more of their bodies to be captured in the frame.

  2. Why does the instructor switch to a 50mm lens?

    The instructor switches to a 50mm lens to shoot a tall, vertical shot with the window as the backdrop.

  3. What is the benefit of using an ND filter?

    An ND filter helps control the amount of light that enters the camera, allowing the photographer to shoot at wider apertures and slower shutter speeds while maintaining proper exposure.

  4. How does the instructor adjust the ambient light in the scene?

    The instructor adjusts the exposure settings and uses a low ISO to darken the ambient light in the scene.

  5. What is the purpose of the backlights in the shot?

    The backlights add a warm color tone and separation between the subjects and the background, creating a backlit effect.

  6. How does the instructor demonstrate the difference in color temperature between the backlights?

    By using an ND filter, the instructor is able to darken the scene and clearly show the difference in color temperature between the backlights.

  7. What is the recommended ND filter strength for shooting at wide apertures in daylight?

    The recommended ND filter strength is five stops, which allows for shooting at wider apertures while keeping the shutter speed below 1/200th of a second.

  8. What is the recommended brand of ND filter?

    The Tiffen Water White ND filter is recommended for its quality and color accuracy.


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Posing Guidance for Him


Posing Guidance for Her


Foundational Posing


Posing Touch Points


Couples Body Language


Posing Three Point Check


Posing Tips with Demo


Lesson Info

Shoot: Backlight with ND Filter

There's like a bunch of... Hmm, stuff below that I don't really want to be in the frame. Like the plugs and things like that. And if we just have them stand there, then they're not necessarily high enough. So what I'm just gonna do is have them stand up so I can get more of their bodies in this shot. I'm gonna make this background. I wanna shoot a tall, vertical shot, maybe to go on a 50mm. Actually, can you grab the 50 mil? Let's switch out the lens with the 50 mil. And then we're gonna shoot like a shot where we can kind of make the window our backdrop. And I wanna show you guys playing around with different effects and then even back lighting a back lit shot. So you guys can kind of see what it looks like in camera. So we'll do some fun stuff. So getting them up a little bit higher. And we will do this kind of stuff quite often. I have my Pelican, so I'll have both couple, we'll put them into a closed pose or a tighter pose and they can both just stand on my Pelican. Wherever, if I ...

need them to be a little bit higher. It's not an apple box, but whatever. All right, I'm gonna get them centered up. So let's just center them up to the window. That's pretty close, okay. So can I have you guys, Danielle and Travis, come stand on each of these boxes. I want you guys to be in an open pose, holding hands across the center. Do you guys notice how easy it is to pose? Open pose, hold hands across the center. And they know exactly what to do. Jay, you're amazing. You got my lens switched out. Love it, okay. Look at each other guys. Cool. Now, Danielle, what you're gonna do is put all the hair over to the other side. So I get a clean profile, and then no worries. Okay, this is kind of interesting. Okay, so what're we gonna do? We're gonna take our first shot. Kind of getting our ambient light the way that we want it. And you know what Jay? I think I might need to go to a 35. Lets do a 35, because this isn't quite wide as I'm thinking I want it. Oh yeah, good call. I like picking it up, I don't know. These are like weird habits that I have. Kind of like OCD like that. That and I get to look like I have junk in my trunk. I stuff my back pockets with everything on shoots. It's not your thing Steve, but it's my thing, okay? (laughs) Cool, okay. So what we're gonna do is we're gonna take a look at this and see where our exposure is at. At 1/100th, uh, sorry, 1/200th of a second, f/1.4, low ISO, 'cause what I'm looking for is I wanna see if we can get color into the windows. You know what I mean? So we have to pull down the exposure a little bit to get that color in there. So we're going down to actually, going down to low ISO. And now I'm gonna take a quick shot with them looking towards each other. You know what, I think I do want the 50. Sorry, my bad. And I have a really awkward photographer face on this side. Why is the 35 not working for you? Oh, it's too wide. Let me take the shot and just show you what I'm seeing. I'm just seeing a little bit too much on the outsides of the frame. And I wanna back up too, they're up higher than me. Actually, why don't I just get up on a-- Can you get me another apple box? I'll just hold on to this guy in case I wanna switch it back in a second. Sweet. Okay, so I don't wanna be shooting up on them which is why I'm going up on this. All right now Travis, turn to her a little bit more. Just turn the head so I get a little more cleaner profile. And Danielle, you got a little flake of hair that's kind of going across on your right side of your face. If you could just brush it back a little bit. Perfect, just so I can get a little more of a clean profile. There we go, that is perfect. Fantastic. So what I see in my shot right now is that we have a little bit of ambient light. In my camera, it actually looks a lot darker than it does on our screen. What's the crazy part about it is that we really need to be using our histogram for these kinds of things. So if you guys see this histogram, you see how its pushed edge to edge? Edge to edge? Now this shot, we're not trying to preserve a ton of dynamic range because we want a silhouetted shot. But what I want you to see though, is the difference between that view versus that. Oh, yeah. So look at how black it looks here. Look at how its actually not blacked out there. You guys see that? So there's a massive difference so when you try to judge things off the view, you're seeing a very different image than what you're actually shooting. Okay, cool. Now lets do this. So we're gonna go ahead and lets put up a light. Let's do, just for giggles, let's do a back lit. I wanna show them one blue. So lets go one regular temperature and one tungsten. So, facing them, and let's boom them up. Where's the other flash stand? There we go. We'll make her yellow, whoops, sorry guys. And let's push it over that way. Let's go all the way back to the wall. And go up to their head height. I'll tell you if its the right height from over here. Perfect, okay. His is great, can you just angle it up a little bit so it's kind of going towards his-- Just angle it straight flat so push up on the head a little bit so it's not towards his back. There you go and then go to the other one. And then move the other flash towards this side. And then down just a little bit. Actually no, the height's good. Because the other one is about the same height. I'm gonna adjust this one just. Sorry, I probably should have just told you to do that. I don't know, sometimes I just don't know what to do. All right, perfect. Move that flash over this way a little bit. A little bit more, right there, perfect. Okay, let's get the junk out of my trunk. Okay, I'm pressing the test button just so I can see they're both synced up, right? I can control both of them. They're at 1/16th power right now going directly to the backs of their heads. Let's just take a look. Look toward each other, guys. Fantastic. Perfect. Okay, and this is why we talked about back lighting against a back lit scene. So, do you guys notice that the back light is not nearly as defined as over here? So that's why I like placing a back light on a scene that's already back lit. It's kind of like a little bit, it's not a bad effect. And by the way, it's really difficult even to tell the temperature difference between hers and his. But yeah, that is why generally, if you're in a scene that already has a back light or if it's even bright. This isn't even really a back light. It's just bright. We're typically not gonna add another light over top of it. So what would we do in this scene? Well, you could darken down the ambient light. You can get that really, really dark. For example, if we got the light. Do you wanna do that just so we can show you guys? I don't know. So we can darken it down so it's actually really dark. But now I'm gonna take the flash power from 1/16th. We're going up to 1/2, okay? I'm gonna get my, what are they called? Focus, that's right, focus. Oh, I have a little bit of lean. So lean a little bit to her side, Travis. Right there, perfect, one more time. There we go. So that's basically how dark we have to get the background to make it look as if we're well back lit. Does that make sense? To make it look crushed basically. But we're at 1/2 flash power, so we're running both of these guys at nearly full power to do that little effect. And we still don't see too much of the difference between the daylight versus tungsten. You can see a little bit of a yellow effect. What's happening is we're probably getting some spill. So once again, just for giggles, let's grid both of them just so we can tighten up the pattern and put it right on their backs. What I'm gonna do now guys is I'm gonna show y'all some mils. We're gonna get a little crazy. I'm at f/4 and I don't wanna be at f/4. I wanna be at f/1.4. But I can't bring my shutter above 1/200th of a second, right? So I'm gonna go down to f/1. and grab out one of these guys. This is my filter kit, okay. This is a Tiffen 4-stop square ND. Now you can get the circular ones. This is a circular one. But the problem is, with the circular ones, is that you need to have a few of them 'cause they all fit different ring sizes on your stuff. Hey, cheat when you can, be lazy when you can. That's really what I'm all about. So this, I can really just hold over the lens. That's totally fine and the nice thing about it is that I can switch to a different lens, I still use this. So I have a square and all you really need if you wanna do. I'm just gonna Captain Morgan this for a second. I feel powerful. It makes me feel stronger when I do this. So if you want to shoot daylight balance. Oh sorry. If you wanna shoot daytime at a wide open aperture, keeping your sync speed below 1/200th of a second you need a five stop ND. Five stops will take you right down. At 1.4, you can shoot at 1/200th of a second, at 100 ISO, or sometimes low ISO. But five stops is what you need, okay? Does that make sense? So if you think about it, generally when we shoot. I just like my foot up, it makes me feel good. Okay, if you think about it, if you're at 1/4000th of a second, 1.4, ISO 100. That's a typical daytime low, so you go down to 1/2000th, that's one stop. I feel like I'm gonna drop something if I count right now. 1/2000th, 1/1000th, 1/500th, 1/250th, 1/125th. So five stops. Even if you're at 1/8000th of a second. 1/8000th, 4000th, 2000th, 1000th, 500th, then you drop to low ISO, that gives you an extra sixth stop, if you have low ISO, if not, you'll gonna need six stops. Cool? Does that all make sense? An ND just cuts down light, that's it. It doesn't change, it does have a little effect over color. That's why we say invest in a good ND. Because if you wanna use this effect, it does change the color, the quality, and the sharpness of an image. Good glass does it less than bad glass. So the Tiffen Water White is one of the best for the money. It's like 80 bucks for a square one and it'll do you really good. Okay, so I'm gonna place this right over this. Okay, lean across the center for a kiss guys. Just hinge from the hips. Oh, you know what, that's not gonna work because the flashes are not in the right place. Don't do that. Okay, that's good enough. So now we're at 1.4, so now we get a better blur in the background and so forth. We get a nice 1.4 look with flash. And now this is the first time, with the light cut down this much, this is the first time we can actually start seeing the difference in color temperature right now. See how this is more white? My camera balance is set to 5500 I believe. So this is neutral, this is orange-yellow. Can you guys see that now? So these guys are super handy dandy.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Pre-Shoot Videos
Keynote 1
Keynote 2
Presets Installation Guide
Gear Guide
Favorite Software
Lightroom Presets

Ratings and Reviews

CPR Photography

I think Pye Jirsa is one of the best, if not the best, instructor for photography on Creative Live. He is very personable, smart and approachable. He has a perfect blend of personality (comments, laughs, tangents..) to the amount of instruction. He asks the questions for you, because he knows you are thinking those questions right then. He's very good about identifying settings, gear, etc.. and not leaving us in the dark about how he "got the shot". He goes into great detail. His instructions flow, but are linear, which is helpful. He's very organized, and you can tell that he really put a lot of work into his presentations (slides, video, test shoots, live teaching, graphics, etc..) I have been listening to him for like 10 hours straight, and still haven't gotten tired of him. He keeps things moving, He's very funny too. Nice job, I've learned so much. :)

a Creativelive Student

This course was AMAZING. I'd say int he past year or two I've fallen into a slump. Uninspired by my surroundings and uninspired by my clients. As a result, it showed through my work. My posing suffered as well and more than a handful of times some of my shoots became more than awkward. Then I bought this course and watched most of it in the course of a day. I walked away inspired, blown away, and renewed. The next day I walked into an engagement session confident. I gave my couples a quick overview on posing and then we just had fun in front of the camera. Immediately afterwards they texted me about how amazing their shoot was and how relaxed I made them feel about posing. The photos turned out fantastic to say the least. I've since shot several more engagement sessions and each one of them has been amazing. If anything, this course should inspire photographers to think outside the box and provide you with the necessary skills to take incredible engagement photos. Thank you Pye and Creative Live! I cannot speak more highly of this course. I should also state I purchased Pye's Natural Light course on SLR Lounge: this course is a wonderful addition to that. If you already own the natural light course and are hesitant about purchasing this one, don't. Buy it and reap the benefits!


This is by far one of the best courses I have taken. Pye makes learning fun and easy to understand. I feel like I have learned so much throughout the course, that I have truly advanced my photography skills. I am so excited to get out there and try so many of the techniques that he showed. I would love to take another course of his. The pricing for the course doesn't even compare to how wonderful the education truly is, I really got more than my money's worth on this one.

Student Work