How To Create Backlight in a Natural Indoor Environment?

I have been asked how I created rim light in this image and what was the source of light. I am happy to share with you with my set up for this image and the way it was shot, so here it goes.

That day the weather was not that good, it was one of those dreary autumn days. We were sitting on a bed with my daughter reading books. You would say why we closed all the shades instead of letting all the light in? The reason was that my husband was sleeping and we didn't want to wake him up. Then, all of a sudden the sun came out and I noticed a pocket of light and light was hitting her hair so beautifully creating a rim of light around her head. Of course I couldn't resist not to make a portrait of her. Since I have discovered how beautiful images are when the light is hitting my subject's hair, I became a little bit obsessed with backlit photographs. Backlight is the great way to make your subject stand out and it gives such a magical feeling to an image, don't you find? The light comes from the back and creates a rim of light around the edges of the subject hair.

Below is my set up, the shades are opened enough to create a spot of light. My daughter was sitting where the pillow is and a white duvet cover was just in front of her as it is on the image:

So, how did I create backlight in a natural indoor environment? Here are some technical specifications to the image:

  • My camera is usually set on spot metering mode.
  • I shoot in RAW to make sure I have a possibility to recover some details or adjust skin tones if needed. I wish I could have perfect images straight out of camera always, but unfortunately not!
  • I set my white balance using Kelvin in order to get more accurate exposure, have less work in post processing and get more consistent white balance than shooting in auto WB.
  • My subject was sitting on a bed and was facing a white duvet cover which I placed there intentionally so the light could bounce back and make her face brighter and more clear. She's got also beautiful catch lights in her eyes.
  • I intentionally didn't open the shades, she remained in front of a shadowed area and you see that her head is illuminated more dramatically. The key is that we need a darker background to create the necessary contrast for the rim of light to stand out.
  • I metered off of her skin and slightly underexposed so that the highlights on her hairs are not completely blown. I locked my focus on her eyes.

This is a SOOC (straight out of camera) of another image so you can see where the light comes from and how it illuminates her hair:

and the original image SOOC:

As you noticed my edit was very simple. I bumped my exposure, added a little bit of contrast, decreased some highlights, created an S-curve and adjusted tones to my taste in HSL and Split Toning panels.

This is it!