Into the Light - tyneholm
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Into the Light

Assignment S29

If you want to add some real drama to your street images, shooting into the light provides both a challenge and an opportunity. Usually referred to as contre jour (“against daylight”) photography, the technique goes against one of the first rules you were taught when you started out in photography (don’t shoot into the light!), but there are several benefits to be gained from breaking this rule: 

  • You can create great silhouettes (see Assignment 21 ). 
  • Rim-lighting will make people stand out against the background.
  • It’s “different” and can make your images stand out. 
  • You can achieve super abstract results.
  • It’s an edgy technique that flouts photographic convention.

Some of the most striking street photography you will ever see was shot looking directly into a strong light source. So, for this assignment you should throw out the rule book, take the brakes off your creativity, and spend a day experimenting like there’s no tomorrow. You’ll have plenty of “misfires” along the way, of course, but you will score the occasional winner and this should demonstrate what a useful technique this can be. Have an open mind, shoot into the light, and see what happens! 

View the images


  • You can achieve great effects with little or no exposure adjustment, but sometimes a little deliberate underexposure can work wonders (shoot in Aperture Priority and tweak the exposure compensation dial). 
  • If you can incorporate translucent elements into your frame, they will “glow” to great effect; think steam, fog, dust, or light rain-they can all add a magical atmosphere to an image. 
  • Shoot when the sun is low for more atmosphere and drama. 
  • Backlit subjects look best when shot in strong light; the stronger the light, the better the effect.

Field Notes

  • Go with your instinct and shoot into the light, even if it feels wrong. The results might surprise you. 
  • While lens flare can sometimes add something to a shot, it can also be an unwanted distraction, so a lens hood is a useful accessory.