Today’s spotlight is on using backlight during our photography tours or photos in the city to transform the most ordinary scenes into magical and insightful images. In the end you will find a list of places where you can exercise backlight photography in Barcelona.
In the city our only light source is natural light and is very challenging the fact that is always changing, every minute and hour. If you come in winter season the light will be completely different from the light that you will find in summer season and the effect on places change too. One example is that beautiful photo of the bridge of the street Bisbe (Pont del Bisbe) in the Gothic Quarter that changes completely from winter to summer time.
Backlight is when the sun is directly in front of you and you want to take a photo of the subject, the monument or the statue that appears between you and the source of light. It allows us to get the shape and profile of our subjects, combining the light and shadow areas and creating those stunning images that we find on internet where the subject’s hair glows with the warm soft light of the last 30 minutes of daylight behind them. When I did this photo below there was still enough ambient light to catch details of the people in the front.
The best moments to do backlight is early in the morning or late in the afternoon, when the sun is still not high above in the sky but at a lower angle allowing us to capture more portion of the people’s silhouettes and shapes.
Light and shadow: If we decide to go out on the morning’s first hours, we can get nice pictures when the light goes straight down the narrow alleys of the Gothic quarter. We can’t forget that the viewer’s eye always goes in the direction of the light when seeing the photo, so, we must squint our eyes to see the luminance of a scene and wait to place the subject in the brightest spot of the scene to take the photo.
Getting the correct exposure: Using spot metering is specially important for backlight photography. So, if you are using evalutive, multifocal or matrix modes of metering change it to spot meter to get the proper exposure. If you decide that you just want strong contrasts with the silhouette or shape of your subject without details as I did in the photo of the Plaza with the pigeons and the woman crossing with the kid, you can just meter light on the brighter areas. On the contrary, if you want to keep details as I did in the photo of the skaters above, you have to choose a middle point or meter on the darker area.
Including or not the sun or sun flares: Avoid the sun will be a difficult task most of the times cause we have it just in front of us. If you don’t want to include the sun you will need to stand in the shadow. If there is no shadow around we always can take the sun in a low or slight angle of the scene, otherwise it will steal protagonism to the scene. If we want to play with the effects of the sun such as the starbust effect or the sun’s flares it is important to know the proper aperture to use (check our aperture tips below).
Exposure compensation: This tool can help us when we want to hightlight contrast or create a darker environment struck by a spot of light. There are many theories regarding this but my advise is to underexpose slightly the image under 0. We can try with half step, -1 or even -2 depending the result desired.
ISO: Should keep it on a low number. Although modern cameras have a great performance on a high ISO, in most cases a low ISO at low light conditions will result in a better definition.
Aperture: Usually I work in aperture priority. Using a wide aperture (low F number) has less depth of field allowing us to isolate the subject from the background while a smaller aperture (high F number) will have more depth of field, so more focus and definition on more areas and layers. So, a wide aperture will create the effect of blurring in our background and sun while a small aperture such as the F22 will create the famous starbust effect. The most important thing, as we have the sun in front of us, it is sometimes difficult to control our focus and we need to make sure that the focus is on the main subject and not on the background unless is our express desire to do so.
Shutter speed: It will be adjusted according to what we want. If our camera is metering on the light area probably it will be enough to frozen our subjects at a proper shutter speed, but we can also create a nice effect with the backlight silhouettes of people walking in the urban environment with the light of the sun or car’s as background.
Blue hour or sunset: At open spaces as Plaza Catalunya, Plaza de la Catedral or Plaza del MACBA we can get a nice backlight photography in Barcelona. Let’s try to get lower to ground level to capture the whole silhouette of the subjects moving around. At the Macba square, the sunset hour is the perfect time to capture the skaters exercising.
Magic Fountain. With the Magic Fountain we will capture nice backlight photos where our main source of light is the fountain itself and we can get beautiful silhouettes of the people around.
Backlight photography Barcelona
List of best places to get a backlight in Barcelona
- Plaza de Catalunya,
- Plaza del Macba
- Plaza de la Catedral.
- Plaza del Pi
- Narrow streets of the Gothic district (carrer dels Banys Nous, Carrer del Bisbe (where we can take the known photo with the Pont del Bisbe in the background, among others that you can discover in our Barcelona photography tours)
- Paseo de Gracia
- Magic Fountain (in high season works every weekend)
- Cloister of the Cathedral of Barcelona
- Coastal areas and Barceloneta beach
Do you know a place where taking a nice backlight in Barcelona? Share it with our readers with a photography taken there. You can include other nearby cities also!
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