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Lighting 301

Lesson 12 of 26

Backlighting Rain & Particles

Pye Jirsa, SLR Lounge

Lighting 301

Pye Jirsa, SLR Lounge

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Lesson Info

12. Backlighting Rain & Particles
Backlighting and rain work together like ingredients in a recipe for success, and Pye shows how to make the most of this combination. Post-production instruction is included in this lesson.

Lesson Info

Backlighting Rain & Particles

backlighting for rain and particles. This is a formula for image success right here. If you've done ever gone heard of one, ain't it, Carlo? Don, just don't about it. So here's how it works. You got rain. You can blow your own water into the air, not with your mouth. That's disgusting. That's just gross. We have an actual sprayer. What you're gonna see in the tutorial, you can use fog. You can use any of these different things whatever the environment going to give you missed. If you're at the beach, there's always a mist in the air. All these things are going to light up and create really cool effects. Now, in this first scene that we've been working in, it's going to be working with natural rain on a wedding. This is an actual client shoot. So we're not gonna be doing any talking during the shooting, so I'm going to stop to pause and explain things. For the second shoot, we're gonna demonstrate the same technique with a two light setup. So in the first one is a one light set up the s...

econd time it's going to be a two lights set up and We're gonna add our own artificial rain with a spray bucket, as you will see. So let's jump in. Yeah. What if you put okay, So easy peasy. The one light set up here. We have our couple standing in the rain. And should I have had a plastic bag over that Be, too, of course. But we're not going to tell pro photo that. Mm hmm. So here's our couple right here. They're standing right here, and we have the umbrella directly over their heads. That's an umbrella and not an egg. It looks like a double yoked egg, does it not? Okay, so that light is coming from right back here, and it's firing straight forward. And our camera is right here, and the couple is concealing the light. Now, if you look closely pas missing, you will notice that the flash does have a CTO on there because we do want to get a little bit more warmth behind that light, just for effect. Purpose. This is really kind of the way that I like to shoot it. And it's a more of a stylized look is to have a slightly warmer light kind of coming off We're also shooting this at full power. Okay, So as you see the camera setting, this is on a B two at 1/1 or full power, that's going to be 10, which is 250 watt seconds of juice. Okay, 10 is in the 10 power setting on there. So we're doing that because this is mid day and were darkening down the exposure. And we're trying to get enough that light coming through and we're gonna shoot this shot as you're going to see up close, and then we're gonna widen out for an environmental version of the same shot. We're also gonna do a little bit of magic and post, but we're going to get there, so let's go ahead and keep watching the video. That little adjustment that I made in the umbrella is to try and kind of prevent some of the shadows that we're going to be seeing. Uh, that's the only thing that I'm really going to kind of try and fix and and remove from our final image. So I like to kind of try and work with that again. You can do a couple different things to reduce that shadow, you can raise the flash up a little bit. The problem is that if you raise it up too high, the umbrella is gonna be casting a shadow on the back of their heads as well. So the light really has to be placed in such a way. And the umbrella has to be held in such a way where you're not gonna be casting shadows on the umbrella. Sometimes you will get a little bit, but we'll end up fixing that post. How are you? I take it as it comes coming down. What is every Friday night? That's it. I mean, okay, so I want you have to pull up that raw file into post, and we're gonna do a little bit of work on it. Now you will notice that currently, this was shot at 1, 200 F 1.4 and ISO 50 and it's kind of removing most of the ambulance from the scene. We do have a little bit of ambulance that's creating that kind of fill on them right here. Uh, and some ambulance that's on the trees in the background. You can see a little bit the sky, but For the most part, it's pretty darn dark. And that's a key point, because that's what allows the rain to be seen. So without that kind of darker background, we're not going to see the rain. This is one of the big things when you're shooting range in the middle of the day and you want to get the light to show up. You really have to under expose the sky. If the sky is your background, that sky's got me really dark to be able to see the rain, and I have an example of this, so in the same shoot. So let's go ahead and pull up this shoot. Actually, you'll see the wide shot right here. Now you'll actually be able to see the rain over the couple and over this darker area. But over the area, the sky you can't see anything because the sky is brighter than the light when it's, you know, the rain when it's lit up. So again, if we want to be able to see rain, we have to have that against a darker background, and we have to light the rain up to be brighter than that background. So the issues when trying to shoot this in the middle of the day. If even if it's rain in the middle of day is fairly bright, the problem is you need a lot of power with your light. We're already at 251 seconds. That's equivalent to five flashes. And still we don't see the rain over the wide shot. We only see it in the areas basically directly over the darker background and not over the sky. So I just want to present that to you guys. So you understand what exactly is happening Now let's go ahead and edit this image and what I would do first is I'm gonna start with exposure. This image was actually shot a little bit on the dark side. Um, it is about to stop under granted at ISO 50 year. I saw 100. You know, we can fix that, but I will fully admit that this is a screw up on my part. Probably most likely due to relying too much on the viewfinder as opposed to the hist a gram or the highlight alert in conjunction with the history Ram. Okay, so we're gonna brighten that up a little bit. I'm going to go ahead and raise the shadows a little bit and then drop the blacks. And then what we're going to do is just kind of get the right temperature by warming this up a little. Now again, this is obviously one of those images that I do like to bring in just a little bit. That's contrast. I wanted to add in a little bit more exposure. I do want to bring in just a little bit of that split toning. So what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna go ahead and grab my split toning click in the palette, and I'm going to go a little bit quicker since we've been doing this quite a bit already. Now I'm gonna go ahead and back that off to about 18. Let's do the same thing. Let's grab some of this and let's actually pull it. Let's see if we can't get a little more blues. Actually, just gonna do it manually, Okay? We're gonna go ahead and air on the warmer side. I want to tweak the saturation to go up a little bit, and right now it's a little bit on the orange side so I might just pull it a little bit towards the warmer sign just towards towards the yellow just a little bit more, Okay, Just looking nice. And if you're thinking right now, radio filter, pat yourself on the back because so am I. Let's go ahead and bring a burn in. I'm gonna go ahead and darken that. I'm gonna do a second one too. So I'm gonna go ahead and just add a second burn to kind of pull things in. Now, here's here's the fun part of this is I'm not going to allow this to necessarily affect the highlights. So what I'm gonna do is on both of these burns. I'm actually gonna pull the highlights up a little bit. So the highlights and the white points are going to be just a little bit brighter again. Remember, the other option for this is that we can just go to the range mask, turn on luminous. And I can basically just pull it down so that we're not burning anything. That is, uh, you know, one of these highlights, so we can just kind of continue to bring that down Really? The same effect on both sides. And what that's gonna do is it's going to allow the other areas the kind of whites in this dark area to not be burned down while it kind of burns down the shadows a little bit. So I think that's pretty cool. The other thing I might do is even let's do this. This is just the just for fun, just for giggles. Let's pull this down a little bit. So that way the I don't want my white point on this highlight just directly behind them to be that bright. So what I'm gonna do is allow it to burn everything down. And what I might do is with a brush. I'm gonna reset this out. I'm just going to add some whites to the image, and I'm hoping that it's just going to basically pick up some of these outside particles. Okay, all we're gonna do is add whites, and that's exactly what it does. And I even add a little bit of highlight and see if it doesn't kind of reveal it as well. That's perfect. So if I turn this on and off, you'll see. But it just kind of kicks up the rain a little bit on the outside edges, and I think it's really fun because it kind of emphasises that rain just a little bit more. Now, we do have a bit of work to do in post or in Photoshop, so let's go ahead and press control e to drop this into Photoshop real quick. We have a couple things to remove, a couple distractions that I want to show you guys how to quickly take care of. So let's go ahead and jump this to a new layer by pressing control, JR Command J. The first thing I'm gonna do is jump into the stand itself. Press s to bring up my clone stamp tool. What I'm gonna do is just kind of separate this from his jacket. So I'm just using my clone stamp tool at a very small, uh, size and radius to kind of separate that out. And I'm gonna go ahead and just grab this section and we'll go control backs, play space content aware and remove that whole thing. So that makes it very quick work of that. And I actually don't like this little flap either. So what I'm gonna do is do the same thing. I'm gonna just alter or option to select and to sample from that area over there. I'm going to remove that flap. I'm gonna go ahead now with my lasso tool by pressing l and select that little flap control, backspace and boom. So why don't you see how quickly some of these things are? And again, you'll see me a lot of times actually working destructively inside of Photoshop, where I just jump everything to a new layer. It's because as a wedding and portrait photographer like I'm not going into Photoshop to create 15 different layers and work on one single image and deliver the perfect editorial image that I might revisit it. I'm honestly just going in to make some quick changes and it delivers how to a client. Uh, and so a lot of times make it over a new merged layer and call it good. What I'm gonna do now is just use my healing brush tool. So by pressing J to kind of bring up my healing brush, I'm gonna remove some of these dots that are a little bit distracting there over areas of skin tone that I find just to be a little bit odd. So, like this one over his eye right there, even this one over her chin right there. I'm gonna see if I can't make quick work of that guy. I might even try that same content aware. And if it doesn't do well with it, then we do the same thing that we did before with the clone stamping. I'm just gonna sample from right here. I'm gonna pull this up and over and we're going to draw that kind of line in, or the little highlight over there. So the same thing just going to draw it in? Put the highlight up here. Okay. Now I do notice a tiny little line right there, which we can zoom in and just, you know, make quick work of Okay, so sample from a nearby area that's close to paint right over that. Now, one thing I love doing on this kind of an image press control shift, X or command shift X to bring up your liquefy tool. And I'll do this a lot, especially when we start using a backlight or where we're bringing the light up close and it's underneath because it emphasizes chins. And if a lot of times it doesn't make sense to have a client extend the chin up and do those kind of things to eliminate that, does it make the pose look odd? So instead, what I might do in a shot like this is zoom in and I'm gonna use w to kind of just use that Ford warp tool. And I'm just going to bend the bottom of the chin up a little bit to kind of fix that line and also bend this just kind of smoothing it out a little bit. Okay, This also has a nice little effect to kind of reduce the thickness of that line that we see as well, in addition to kind of fixing any extra chins that we all might not like that much. Okay, that looks nice. Let's go ahead and press, OK, Now that looks good. With any liquefy adjustment, always just quickly look at the before and after and make sure I'm good with it, and that's totally fine. So same thing up here. I really don't like the way that the shadows being cast right there. I know that using my content aware It's probably not gonna be able to do that good of a job with this so we can try it. But see how it's missing A lot of the detail and texture. It just kind of like removes that whole section. It will do a good job with this kind of strap that we have on the backside of the umbrella because it's so dark and just obviously visible. What we can do is with that one little piece remaining, I'm just going to sample from right here and just clone the rest of this out, okay? And then if we want to, if we want to kind of fix that area, I can select it. Using my lasso tool, I'm gonna press shift J to jump all the way over to a patch tool and then just patch over that little area. So up here, though, probably the simplest way to do this is going to be to actually make a sample from right here and then to bring that down, match it up, and then just to basically paint across. Okay, so this is just basically painting across to kind of pull the textures and all those items over. And as we get closer to the edge, I'm going to retain the edge of the umbrella a bit, okay? And I'm gonna lift off with my brush just on occasion in case I mess up. So that way, when I undo it, it doesn't undo every single thing that I just did. So it's that same sampling technique, and I'm just being careful. I'm lightening up. So this is where a tablet comes in, so critical because I'm lightening up along the edge and what that's doing is naturally making the edge of this brush a little bit harder, and that gives us the edge that we need on the umbrella. So what we end up with is a very quick job, and we've kind of reduced that entire shadow to not. And if you guys saw Carlos face right now, you'd see he's just, like, absolutely blown away, are you? He's blown away. I'm gonna select this little area right here. I can see a little bit of transition and press shift backspace again, and what I'm trying to do is just get this any areas that we have duplicate texture. I'm trying to kind of fix so that didn't really work. And so what I'm gonna do instead is use my patch tool, select that area shift J to use the patch tool and just bring it over another area so I can kind of patch a couple these textures together. So that way it doesn't look like these textures are repeating, if that makes sense, Um, those are the things that I find most obvious about When something Photoshop is winning, texture is, like, very blatantly repeating. So I might do the same thing here. This little drop of water is kind of distracting to me. So instead of that, I might just pull it over and sample from right there the same thing here. Okay. The same thing here. And you know what? I might do a couple steps back and let's see if we want to expand this area a little bit. So I'm gonna gonna press shift J to bring up my patch healing tool. Here we go. Sample again. A little larger. This goal. And let's try and get a better. There we go. That's much better. And even going to remove that line. Perfect. Okay, so when zoomed out, I'm looking for anything else that's obvious and distracting. And the only other thing that I notice is this area up here. So using my lasso tool, I'm going to select this area now the content of where should be able to make quick work of this because it's a fairly simple, consistent kind of background and pattern. Someone's gonna press OK and see if it can't just take care of it for me. And it sure does. Okay, anything like this is kind of a perfect job for content aware. Fill shift backspace again, selecting it each time. And there we go. I'm gonna go ahead and save out the image and it's done. We've done a great job of like cleaning it up, getting all everything tidied up, and the image looks fantastic. Okay, So before we jump to the next part of this tutorial, there's the raw file on the right side compared to that final image that we just worked through in Photoshop. Now let's go to the second part of this tutorial because we have a two light setup and artificial water particles. You know what, Ryan? Can you take that off and put the put a blue gel on it. Do you just do the thing and do it? Just a blue job? Didn't know Strip, You know, that's what he did in my class. Trying to get a stretch. I'm needing to stretch. No, she left. She was over here. She was, you know, And then I want you to grab on this issue right when she went down. Yeah, sure. The okay, that Yeah. Uh huh. Yeah. Yes. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. I just want that that light boomed up, and then it's pretty solid. Let me bring it in a little bit closer. Yeah, Right there. Right there. That's great. Matt, can you pull yourself up? Let me see where you're at with the light, Okay? And then look straight to that mirror. There you go. Pull up. That's it. Right there. That's perfect. Lights. Fantastic. Okay, now what we're gonna do is let me get our settings right. Can you guys grab the spray bottle and put some air in it? And so that number two what is that one? This is number two. Okay, okay. Let me just get a quick test on the light. Like straight crunched. I'm gonna show them some they've never seen before. Yes, Leg straighter. Crunched. I want the legs were not gonna probably get too much legs in this, But pull yourself up and do it. Let me see. Yeah, just just do a pull up. Just do a pull up. Let me just get a quick test shot. Yeah. Ready? Yeah. Mhm. Right there. That's it. That's money. Okay, bring yourself down. Okay, let's tether, guys. I want to show them this. That's solid. I need a little bit of fog. Can you kick me a little bit of fog in this background, Jonathan? Throw it right into the garage. We're gonna do a little bit of fog and then a lot of mist. Can you get something to stand on? So I need you to be up high, and I need to be misting across the whole area. Basically kicked me more. Yeah, You need to learn a lot of cool things. Yeah, Okay, that's it. Stop now. Fan it out. Spread it out. Let me see what we got real quick. As far as the fog. Let me do this. That's perfect. Okay. And then turn Go into about to do a pull up. Yeah. I mean, we're gonna do a pull up and then missed. I want to get a quick touch shot missed. Get lots of mist. This is awesome. Stop, Stop. Yeah. Okay, good. I need bigger beads. Bigger beads. Okay. And go again. Okay, stop. I need that light. Probably over on that corner right there. And I wanted to kind of shoot towards the end. You need to back light the rain a little bit more. Just so it lights up. That's solid. Just boom it up higher. Probably not as much angle, a little bit less reflecting. Point it right here. And then when you raise it up, it'll be up there. I didn't want to walk around. So, guys, the rule of thumb. But I should have told you this. At the end of the day, the rule of thumb for raising stuff is point at 3 ft lower than how are how you're gonna raise it. Just point it at the same thing. That's 3 ft below it. And then when you raise it up, it's pointed at that. You know what I'm saying? Open it this way. A little bit right there, right there. That's it. Money. Okay. You ready? So your pull up. I want to. I actually want the shot of you. Not at the top, but, like right here. Okay, that's the hardest part. So how about I go up and then I'll slowly drop and you can take him as a draft? Yeah, that's perfect. And what do you want? I want core flexed and then just cross the legs. Yeah. There you go. Well, they're actually not even in the shot. Really. It's just up to down to your pants. Basically. Okay. Head looking straight on the mirror. Okay. Chin down a little bit. Yeah. Okay. And then I'm gonna have Joe hold on a sec. Let me make sure we're good. We're solid. Joe. You ready? Okay. Okay. You ready? Okay, let's go. Start spraying. Start pulling up and stop. You're spraying. Me too. Okay. Is this what you're talking about? Okay, so part two, let's take the same technique and now dive into a fitness shoot. So this is with our good friend Matt Cantarella. We're shooting inside of a gym, Carlo. As far as I know, it doesn't rain inside of a gym unless you make it rain. And I'm not saying basketball. I can make it rain on the court. Carlo can make it rain on the court. No, no to both. Okay, so what we've essentially done here is we have a big kind of this spray thing. Honestly, I think it's for pesticides and and things that you want to spray in your garden. But you can pick one up from Home Depot for 2030 bucks or off of Amazon, and it's just a compressor that you can basically put water into, compress it down and then spray up and into the air. It's exactly what we're doing here. We've taken this thing onto engagement shoots. We've used it at fitness shoots anywhere you want to create rain particles. It works incredibly well. So with that, the lighting setup goes as follows as you will see in the video. We have Matt here, and he's basically kind of doing a pull up against a bar that's going straight across. So what we have is a light that's placed right here, and that's set up to kind of like him. So we get a nice Rembrandt lighting that shadow directly onto the face. We have a second light placed on the back side angled forward and we've left this one kind of more blue, whereas this one is actually CTO or half cto gel. So this light naturally becomes more blue. And if you want it to be even more exaggerated, you can put, say, for example, a CTB onto it. But honestly, if I'm doing a half CTO or a CTO on this side, you shouldn't need to. This left alone, you should get enough blew out of it like you see in this image. So what this does is two things. It lights up all the particles in the air. It also creates that edge light along his entire body, which we can see in the image. So when you look at the image and you see the edge light along his backside, it looks fantastic. It's also creating a little bit of blue in that light kind of that we get in the background against the, uh, the the grading of that garage door. And we have that nice light on this side that's creating a really cool speculator light that highlights off the sweat and water on his chest. So very cool, dynamic image and the particles really add a lot to this overall scene in terms of making it very high impact. There's only one small modification. If I had a chance to reshoot this, you can fix this imposed. But it would have been easier to do on site if we had a flag, and I would have placed a flag right here between the light and this bar. That way, the bar itself. You'll notice that we get a very strong highlight off that light source. Uh, if we didn't have, if we had a little flag right there, we would have kind of made it a little more even and not had that bright, super bright highlight that we'd have to fix and post basically. So with that, let's go ahead and grab this image because this is including your exercise files as well. And let's edit this now again. We designed this entire visual flow preset to literally be everything that you need, and this is basically a backlit scenes. So if I brighten this up, you'll notice that essentially we lose contrast because we have a flare almost coming directly to the camera where that light is so I can actually select, backlit and raise the exposure a little bit. And we get to basically a final image and it looks really cool. But if you're not using visual flow, not a big deal. Let's work through this from the beginning. And so what I'm gonna do here is actually bring the exposure up quite a bit. And now we need to start preserving a little bit of our highlights. And I might save a little bit that white point just a little bit so that the speculum highlights are not quite as bright. And I'm gonna go ahead and add a little more shadow and I might even raise. So I'm going to raise the shadow side while dropping blacks increasing contrast a little bit. So it kind of lifts the detail a little bit. We end up with this really cool image. I'm going to increase the clarity just a bit too, and you can see how it just kind of enhances the overall water particles in the air. So this looks really cool and, yeah, all needs is I'm gonna do a video on YouTube. It's just about how much. I love radio filters. Maybe I'll do some. Should I do a radio filter song? Carlo, you said yes, right? He said yes. He really wants me to that. So I'm going to I'm going to do this. I'm gonna drop that exposure thing on there. And I'm also going to bring the highlights and the white points up. So once again, what this is doing is kind of dropping overall exposure while kind of leaving our rain particles a little more bright. So I think that looks really cool right there. And very quickly, very easily. We have a nice edit to this, and I'm gonna see if our temperature looks good. I really like the temperature, as is actually looks really solid. Okay, so let's go ahead and press back slash so we can see them before And the after with this quick little edit here. Oh, it's really cool. Okay, so there is our final image. So from this tutorial, I'm hopefully you guys are gaining insight into when you have rain particles, fog, mist, anything up in the air. Backlighting is gonna be the name of the game. And you can do that with one backlight you can do with two back lights. You can do with three, however many you want. There's so much artistic variety here, and the thing that I would remind you is just like you see in this shot the background. If you want to see the light particles and you want to see everything being lit up, the background must be darker, then the lit up particles. Otherwise, they're not going to show. That's it. Let's go ahead and move on to the next video.

Class Description


  • Master multiple off-camera flash setups for dramatic portraits.
  • Control light with flash modifiers such as softboxes, grids, and gels.
  • Master creative techniques like creating silhouettes anywhere, pin lighting. your subjects, backlighting rain, creating starbursts with diffraction, and much more.
  • Use various tools in Adobe Lightroom Classic to enhance the images created using the lighting techniques taught in this course.


This workshop is all about using multi-point lighting setups to consistently make any location look great and help you capture dramatic, creative portraits that will wow your clients every time.

Building on the skills learned in Flash Photography Crash Course, Lighting 101 and Lighting 201, we’re going to explore a variety of multi-point lighting techniques and look at different ways to further refine the way we light a scene. We’ll start with light stacking to create depth in our portraits before introducing rim lighting, backlighting, and other creative effects and applications. Then, we’ll incorporate motion into our environmental portraits via shutter drag and show you how to create composite images that would otherwise be impossible to capture. 

We’re going to demonstrate these techniques using a variety of highly portable lighting gear and modifiers. You’ll also find “power translations” with each lesson so that you can know the exact power settings used and recreate the same light using any flash or modifier that you already own. Follow along and see how we crafted all of the images featured in this course, from shoot to post, and learn how to fully realize your vision and bring it to life with your camera. 

The next class in this series is Lighting 401, where Pye teaches photographers how to create every natural light effect with flash, including golden hour, soft window light, and direct sun.


  • Photographers with a basic understanding of flash photography who want to elevate their lighting skills
  • Those looking to boost their creativity when shooting on-location
  • Any photographer who wants to stand out from the competition


Adobe Lightroom Classic 2019

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Lighting 301 Exercise Files

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes


Jackie Stewart

Lighting 301 is excellent! I learned so many new techniques throughout the class. Pye Jirsa is brilliant at explaining new lighting techniques in such an easy to understand way and his mastery of Lightroom is amazing!!! Loved the class and can't wait til implement the things I learned!!!!


I love the Lighting (101-201-301) courses; I have finally understood the concept of lighting and how it works. I have been referring to my notes and go back to all the courses with ease. One of the best courses I have done for myself and my biz; I am so impressed with my work and the lighting I can create.


Pye is a great presenter and is able to make understanding light easy. Now to practice and master the concepts taught. Thank you.