As any photographer will attest, lighting is one of the most critical ingredients in all great pictures. The best images always make interesting and powerful use of light. Dramatic light can make even the most mundane subjects appear outstanding. Shooting into the sun, and using backlight as a visual effect, is a compositional and lighting technique that I have been experimenting with for many years. It goes against one of the most fundamental “rules” of photography — to always have the sun behind/beside the photographer — but I love the softness of the subject created by the sun’s flare in my lens. It’s this ethereal, evocative effect that moves me to keep practicing this photographic technique.
To create these types of photographs, I position myself so my lens is pointing directly into the sun. I focus on my subject and then overexpose the image by a full stop (or more), depending on how bright the sunlight is. Overexposing the photograph blows-out the highlights in the sun and ensures there will be detail in my subject, so it won’t be completely in silhouette. I like to compose these types of images so that the sun just peaks into my frame from the edge or bursts out from behind my subject, which casts a beautiful golden glow across my photograph.
The sun’s angle significantly affects the warmth and contrast of a photograph. To achieve this effect, shoot in the warm “golden hours” of early morning and late afternoon (one hour after sunrise or one to two hours before sunset) when the sun is low and the light is soft and yellow/orange. For added effect, make use of long shadows cast during the golden hours or use backlighting to silhouette your subject.