SEARCHING FOR SUMMER LIGHT by Toni Ahvenainen

Photograph by Toni Ahvenainen. Sony Nex-5N, SEL50F18, ISO100, 1/200sec, f/3.2, Raw. Flickr account

Photograph by Toni Ahvenainen.
Sony Nex-5N, SEL50F18, ISO100, 1/200sec, f/3.2, Raw.
Flickr account

Season of Summer Light
Week 31, Wednesday

When I started this season, the 'Season of Summer Light', I was worried about a good light. Summer being a very bright season I was particularly concerned about hard light and if I would find suitable places for softer light. Lately I've become more interested in 'capturing that sweet summer light in my frames', which means using light as a part of composition and trying to get some feeling of warm and heat in to my images. To me, this change of objective speaks about development and I feel I'm getting more comfortable. I took this particular shot of Aura when we were coming home from the beach one evening. It took me many attempts during four or five days to get it right, so I'm pretty satisfied with result – and to me it captures the feeling of those evenings very nicely. While it's been challenging picture for me, I thought I might as well share 'my recipe' for this kind of picture as it might inspire others as well:

1. Light. Make sure you are shooting in the evening, because light is then much easier to deal with and coming from lower it will enhance your subject. If possible shoot at the golden hour.
2. Place. Find a good place for your photography. Setting your subject so that it is in backlight will create a nice rim light around the subject. If possible, try to find place where background is dark. It will create better contrast between the subject and background.
3. Exposure. As the subject is in backlight the face will inevitably be in shadow. Because of this shadow one needs to dial positive exposure compensation of 1 - 1½ EV. The background and especially the sky will be overexposed because of positive exposure compensation, but it's better to get good exposure of face than the background. Don't leave the frame too dark and be brave enough to overexpose it from here and there.
4. Post process. Once the picture is shot this kind on backlight image needs to be worked a bit in post process. Because you have shot straight into sun the picture probably looks very hazy and has a lack of contrast. First of all you need to readjust the exposure for background and sky by turning it down. This way the overblown parts can be pulled back. Similar way the subjects face might need some adjustments. Because the subjects face has been in the shadow, the most difficult part is to get skin color right. To solve this one needs to play carefully with right amount of exposure and adjusting color balance. You should aim for nice peachy color which is not too warm or cold. When everything locks together the result looks pretty natural.
5. Try again and experiment. In my experience, this kind of backlight shot isn't easy to do. Because it is done in two stages (actual photography and post processing afterwards), it requires estimation of what works in the post process stage. The only way to learn this is to experiment, try again and readjust your settings based on previous attempts. With patience it will come and once done, it might feel pretty straightforward afterwards.