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Photography Question 
Jen Orbistondo

Using a Window for Backlighting

I was wondering how to photography a subject with window behind as backlighting. I want the window light to be blown out and the subject to be exposed properly. I have a Nikon D70s, using a 50mm 1.8 lens with no other lighting. I don't have a meter, so I can't figure out how to meter for my subject and not the bright light coming from the window. Also, I need to keep up my shutter speed because my subjects are moving. Thanks in advance!!!

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11/17/2008 2:38:02 PM

Jennifer, you DO have a meter! In your D70s!

Your first order of business is to get to know your camera, its features, what it can do, and how it works.
Study the manual from cover to cover. It is a MANUAL, so use it for HANDS-ON training. Camera in your right hand, leaf through the manual with your left.
Try all settings, one after the other, and shoot test shots with each.

Have fun!

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11/17/2008 3:12:45 PM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
  If it's backlit outside, or backlit with a window inside, there are differences with the two, but the approach is the same. You still expose for the light that shines back on the subject, and also for the look you want. And I have to stress "the look you want" because you didn't say if you wanted a silhouette or something else, like the very high-key, faded look.
Backlit outside, you have the sky and everything else bouncing light back to the subject. A room, since it's enclosed, doesn't offer that much of it. And there are other things like dark walls, etc.
Outside, increasing the exposure of what you get with the light behind you, not facing into it, by 2 f/stops as a standard starting place gets you pretty close - that's for having the subject visible. With a window for backlight, how the subject is placed in regards to the window matters. The closer you are, the more light you'll have wrapping around, illuminating the front of the subject. The farther away, the more directional the light gets.
You can use a camera's spot meter if it has it, and meter a face or hand as you're looking into the light, and make slight changes for dark or light skin tones.
Also, you can always add fill light back into the subject with a reflector, or a flash. This will give a different look than exposing strictly for the amount of light bouncing back from the surroundings.
A sheer curtain over the window will help with getting a white wall look to the photo.

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11/17/2008 3:15:04 PM

Pete H
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/9/2005

Gregory is correct: You must meter off the subject ... reflected light.
1) Use Program Mode.
2) Use Matrix Metering.
3) Get close enough to your subjects face so it fills the entire frame.
4) Make mental note of shutter speed and f/number.
5) Place camera in manual mode.
6) Set the readings you just noted.
7) Back up, compose as you wish and shoot.
There are several ways to accomplish what you want ... this is one of the easier ones.

All the best,


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11/17/2008 5:45:13 PM

Joe Ciccone
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/7/2005
  I could understand this question if it were coming from someone using film,but when shooting digital the question and answers are moot.
Point your camera at your subject (not the window) and shoot. Look at the results, look at the settings that were used, then adjust accordly....

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11/25/2008 11:30:11 AM

Gerald Coppola   Jennifer, I shoot with a D70s too. There is a small button close to where your right thumb would be when shooting a picture, near the right side of the viewfinder. I believe it is labeled EL for "exposure lock" (I dont have my camera with me at this moment). Anyway, when you press that button, the camera locks onto that particular f/stop and shutter speed. Press it a second time, and it unlocks it again. So what you want to do is get in close to your subject with the camera in auto mode (I would use the "P" setting to prevent the flash from popping up). Fill the frame with your subject, and then press the exposure lock button. Now you can step back, compose your shot and snap away. Your subject will be exposed properly, and the window will be blown out. Dont forget to unlock the exposure settings again after you get your shot. Hope this helps!

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11/25/2008 12:30:08 PM

Bruce A. Dart   Jennifer,
Photographers and windowlight are longstanding combinations. However, with backlighting (if that is the effect you are aiming for) usually either fill flash or a reflector gets a pleasing exposure that is, as previously mentioned, about a stop and a half to two stops different than light outside the window. As Joe said, shoot it and adjust. However, for the most pleasing windowlight, shoot from the side with the soft light from the window providing light on the subject. Moving further away from the window will give less light on the subject (tripod is a must) but more ambient light. It may be F8 next to the window, for example, and 5.6 or 4 by moving away -- but the dark tones will lighten up by doing this and the light will be more pleasing and softer than a harsh light from the window.

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11/26/2008 7:09:35 AM

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