How to take better landscape images

How to Best Manage the Light in Backlit Landscape Images

Jun 15, 2021

Those of you who have been following my photography tips for some time know that my unquenchable passion for photography was reignited when I picked up my camera to photograph the everyday moments of my children. My adoration of landscape photography came a few years after my passion for everyday portraiture. In my quest to improve my momtographer skills, I fell in love with light and its power to transform the simplest moment. 

Landscape photographers cannot mould light quite as the portrait photographer can; however, we can be aware of where the light source, usually the sun or moon, will emanate from and how the main subject will be lit. Recognizing certain types of light and then understanding how light impacts a landscape scene is important to the success of any landscape photograph. 

Today I want to share a tip on how you can manage backlight within a landscape location like a pro. 

Backlight in a landscape setting is beautifully dynamic light but it's often challenging to manage. When a landscape scene is backlit the dynamic range of the given scene can be beyond what your camera will be able to capture within one exposure. It's common to lose detail in the highlights if shadows are preserved or clip shadows, resulting in silhouetting when highlights are preserved. There's nothing wrong with silhouetting landscape elements if that is your intention, but what if your goal is to preserve highlights and shadows? 

 ISO 100, 35mm, f16, 1sec (highlights) 

The practice of bracketing exposures will help you manage backlit scenes. For example, exposing for highlights while paying careful attention to preserve those bright details and then immediately exposing for shadow detail will permit the preservation of both highlights and shadows in a backlit landscape setting.  

You'll need a few post-processing skills to create the final image, as these two exposures will need stacking and blending; however, these techniques can be quite quickly executed in a post-processing program like Photoshop. 

Light is a dynamic and powerful tool in photography. Backlit landscape scenes are just one way a landscape photographer can pull a viewer into an image and captivate visual attention. Next time you face a backlit scene, don't be afraid to try the technique of bracketing and preserve both highlight and shadow detail in a landscape scene. 

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