Backlight…Oh, Beautiful Backlight – My Process Explained

White Shape

In this 20 minute, no-holds barred tutorial, I detail my Lightroom and Photoshop editing techniques for extracting amazing levels of colour and vibrance of a back lit shot of the handsome German Shepherd, Joey.

Back lit shots are not necessarily the easiest category of shot to master. However, I personally think the time and effort spent learning, is well and truly worth the while. So much so, that I selected this style of shot as the very first shot style to master, when I initially became serious about pet photography. To this day, back lit shots are still my

personal favourite.

Useful Tips when taking the shot

When and where: It’s easy to overestimate the amount of light a colour required for this style of shot. 15-20mins before/after sunrise/sunset typically provides the ideal lighting situations.

In terms of location, it’s typically best to find a spot with tall foliage through which the low-laying sun can filter. There is a bit of a balance here – too thick, and the foliage will block too much light; too thin and the sun will blow-out the background and wash-out all of your beautiful colour. To be perfectly honest with you, only with practice will you become comfortable with selecting the ‘right’ environments and learn the limits and characteristics of your particular camera body and lenses.

Lens and settings: The ideal lens focal length will depend on the area of backlighting that you have available. If you’re fortunate enough to have a large, beautifully let area; have a go at a wider angle lens (e.g. 35mm – 50mm). If you’ve only been blessed with a small patch of backlighting (as I was in this situation), I recommend reaching for a longer focal length (e.g. 80mm+). The shot featured in this tutorial was taken with a 90mm prime lens (in full-frame equivalence) at f1.8.

That brings me to the next topic, aperture. I personally find that I achieve the best results when shooting ‘wide open’. In my case, f1.8 is as wide as my collection reaches. I find that this provides me with great soft backgrounds and bokeh, whilst drawing the viewer’s attention to the star of the image (in this case, Joey).

Placement: The ‘ideal’ placement will depend on; firstly, the physical accessibility of the location (for both you and your fur client); secondly, your lens(es); and third of all, your personal preferences and tastes.

If you’re limited in terms of your widest aperture, I highly recommend creating as much space between your fur client and the back lit foliage as possible (around 10-20m). This assists in achieving similar soft background and bokeh effects as shooting at a wider aperture (I made do with this approach for at least a year, before upgrading to my prime lenses). If you’re fortunate enough to own lenses that open nice and wide, you’ll find that you won’t be quite as constrained with the required distance between your subject and background. Once again, practice and experimentation is key. All camera bodies and lenses have their own characteristics; and each photographer their own unique tastes and preferences.

Where to start: Oh, did I forget to mention: practice!? As much as it would be ideal for me to be able to download all of this information and experience to you, Matrix style; the reality is that practice is the only way in which you’ll master consistently selecting the combination of locations, positioning and equipment required to capture the images that you consider stunning. I can assure you, in no time you’ll be casually walking down the street, glancing across the road and thinking to yourself, “OMG! That is the PERFECT spot for an epic backlit shot!”

Please share your work: I really look forward to seeing the work that you all put together. I highly encourage you to share your work on this page. It’s a great opportunity to seek and share our collective creative talents and abilities. I’ll personally be viewing your posts and providing feedback, where invited.

Thanks so much for stopping by.

Kind regards,


#JohnMuirPhotography #Backlight #LightroomTutorial #PhotoshopTutorial #PetPhotography #Goldenhour

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