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Front-lit or Back-lit?

Light is a funny thing, and not only for your subject, but for your background as well. I had the opportunity to have both morning and evening sessions at a pond – and it was only when examining the images after the fact I realized the subtle (but great) differences in the frames. But I’ll test you now – take a look at this image – can you tell if it’s lit from the front or the back?

spectacled caiman






During the morning, the sun was at my back, lighting the entire scene fully and frontally. Choice of subject is also important – the iridescence of the Purple Gallinule shows up very well under these conditions.

purple gallinule-3







In the afternoon session, I was shooting into the sun. The whites of this immature Wattled Jacana made sure to magnify any ambient light such that it too, was properly exposed.

wattled jacana-2






Now, aside from the subjects – what’s going on with the background? Those specular highlights in the bokeh really do it for me. Only visible in the backlit image, they tend to lend a magical atmosphere to an otherwise boring image. But the front-lit image washes the entire scene with rich colour. Which do you prefer?

Oh and that Spectacled Caiman was photographed in the afternoon. You can see one or two specular highlights near the top of the frame, plus all the leaves have light shining through them, emphasizing their veins.

1 thought on “Front-lit or Back-lit?

  1. Aliya Hosein says:

    Okay so I thought I was looking at the caiman’s body not it’s snout in the first picture 😀

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