I think my favorite light is backlight. Edges glow, the light can be warm and the shadows cool and blue. These images have a nice, radiant quality. When it works, that is, because getting good backlit images is hard.

Here is why.

Your subject is surrounded by light, but is itself in shadows. So if you shoot a straight exposure, your camera will usually read all that bright backlighting and underexpose the image. This create a silhouette, and the subject itself will remain dark. That is a completely different kind of image – not necessarily bad, just different.

But if you want a backlit image with detail in your subject, you have to tell your camera to override the normal exposure, i.e. overexpose the image.

My favorite time to shoot backlit images is when the subject is nicely backlit with bright sunlight, but the background is in shadows. This means that when you overexpose the image, the subject itself is nicely exposed, and the darker background does not overexpose (because it started off dark). Everything comes together in perfect harmony, like a great big old Coca Cola commercial at Christmas.

Here is a backlit egret from a pond near the Trinity River Audubon Center in the Great Trinity Forest south of Dallas.  It is overexposed almost two stops from the straight camera meter reading.

Great Egrets

Canon 1D Mark IV.  Canon 500mm + 2x teleconverter.  ISO 1000.  F/8 2 1/2500 second.  Overexposed + 1 2/3 EV.