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Lighting 301

Lesson 11 of 26

Double Backlight for Environmental Portraits

Pye Jirsa, SLR Lounge

Lighting 301

Pye Jirsa, SLR Lounge

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Lesson Info

11. Double Backlight for Environmental Portraits
Pye covers a double backlight technique that works especially well with environmental portraits, especially when shot at night or in situations where the ambient light is pulled down for the purpose of creating dark and dramatic portraits. Post-production instruction is included in this lesson.


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Lesson Info

Double Backlight for Environmental Portraits

in this video, we'll be covering double backlighting. It's a simple technique and light pattern that always yields interesting environmental portraits, especially when you're working at night or when the entire scene is pulled down and left very dark and dramatic. In this video, we're also gonna be doing a little bit of light painting via a fun composite technique that I'm gonna show you guys. We're going to capture another shot with just a little bit more ambient light and then we're gonna blend the tune post. All right, I think this is gonna be fun. What I want to do in this shot is actually used to different lights, one for each of them because I think it be really fun to get kind of a shot of them dancing up on the other side of this fountain while the water is still. So I've got my camera set up. My composition is shooting down on the water. So what I'm really focusing on is going to be their reflection coming off the water. We're gonna set up two lights in the back side of them, ...

so if you can see Karen actually setting those up now she's putting up two lights each are gonna have CDOs on them and there to a ones. We're gonna go ahead and set them the exact same power. So, Karen, can you go ahead and put them both on Channel A? Now, Keith and Gina, we're actually ready for you guys. I'm shooting at 1. 30 of a second F two and 1600. I s o. Now, I'm hoping that we have enough flash power. It's gonna freeze their motion. And there's not a lot of ambient light on Heath and Gina for this shot. So we're gonna freeze the motion and then if we want to, we can actually do a little bit of light painting afterwards as well. But I think those two back lights are gonna give us a nice look on the shot. So he Gina, I want you guys to go all the way back to where Karen is, and you're gonna be basically like doing a little dance right here on this step. So I want you to kind of do a 12 kind of like do a twirl where she kind of, like, spins around. What's happening here is I'm just instructing them to step onto the ledge. We had a little bit of static interference. So I'm asking you to step on the ledge and then for Heath to twirl Gina just a little bit so that we can get the shot in action. And then we're gonna make sure that each flash can't see the camera. So basically, what you're gonna do is just bring the flash to, like right here, Karen, payment towards your respective person's head right there. Okay, so your flash can't see the camera, right? No. And then just make sure the same height and angled right towards their heads. So you need to raise your just a little bit right there. Angle towards our heads, and you stay here. Karen, let me get a quick test shot. So show me how you guys would do that twirl. Where would you guys be standing? Good. Okay. So, Karen, you know where you have to move the flash too, Right? Okay. So, Gina, take a step back right there. Let's go, Karen, you're gonna be out. Okay. So, Gina, that light is directly behind you, right? So when you turn, you're gonna try and keep your feet go a little bit forward right there. A little back right there. So you're gonna try and keep your feet, Both of you, on that same exact place where you're at right now. So look at each other. Let the hands kind of relaxed down. There you go right there. Let me see it. That's it, guys, Are you guys ready to do it? Okay. On One more time. Gina stayed back yet. Right there. Perfect. Now turn one more time. Try and do it with the other hand and turning the other way So the hand doesn't block your face. Their hair. There you go, Gina. Move forward a little bit. That's your spot right there. Here we go. One to end. Let's see it. I love that one more time. Cute. Gina, when you land, I want you to flick the dress out. Okay? I love that. So now I'm gonna go ahead and mix those lights, so I'm gonna turn this off, and what I'm gonna do is actually get a little bit more ambient light, just like and get their reflections in the or get a little bit more blue in that water below, So all I'm gonna do is just slow down the shutter speed a bit. Nobody's moving. There's no that's fantastic. We also have a shot. Just a safety shot of them holding still, which looks great as well. We have all three. So with that last shot, I can basically just do a plate. And I can kind of blend and do a little light painting just in post with that shot with a slower shutter speed. So, on that last shot, by the way, we were at 1/5 of a second F two and s. So All right, let's take this in the post and show you the final image. Okay, this is gonna be fun. So here is the raw file that I want you guys to have. So you should have downloaded this. We're going to process this image. Then we're also going to use the brightened image that longer exposure shot with a little more ambient light. This shot The funny thing was, I actually deleted the raw file for this. And so you're getting the JPEG version, but we can still make it work, and we're going to in this tutorial uh, it's actually a kind of a good lesson to learn. So let's drop first into that raw file. So here's a raw file. The main things that I want to do this is number one. I want to actually cool down the overall image quite a bit, but well, I want the background to kind of, You know what? I want that same kind of radio filter that's going to basically cool down the background a little bit. We're gonna play into this a little, So let's go ahead and think 14 skin tone. So skin tone I'm gonna aim for right around here. Let's go ahead and bring up our exposure just a bit and I'm gonna bring the shadows up a little bit again. I don't want to push this too much because we're already at, like, let's see 600 s. So So it's already gonna be a little bit on the kind of grainy side, so I don't want to push this very far. I do want to introduce a little bit more tint, and what I might do is just get a white balance. This backside wall is actually pretty close to neutral So I'm gonna give this as a starting point so I can kind of get to a neutral temperature. I'm going to also add in a bit of warmth from that. There we go. And then we can add a little clarity here. Somewhere around here is gonna be nice. Let's go ahead and pull in a little bit extra contrast and just a little bit more on my exposure. Just a bit. We can zoom in and see if we're getting too much grain. It's a bit, but I'm still good with that. And if we want to, we can actually reduce some of that grain. You'll notice that we do have a tiny bit of looks like a little bit of back focusing, but since it's so wide, we're okay on this image. I think I even manually was zooming in to get the to get the proper focus on the shot. It looks like I missed it by just a hair. Okay, so I'm gonna go ahead and raise noise reduction up to about plus that there's a decent amount there. We're gonna go ahead and bring the color noise reduction up a little bit higher as well. So little nicks, most of the noise in the scene. Now let's go ahead and grab that radio filter and let's drop it in and we're gonna go ahead and cool down the surrounding area. So what it kind of looks like, and what we're kind of playing with is imagine the building behind them as sort of being our nice kind of warm light coming through. And the rest of the scene is kind of falling to this more deep blue toning. Okay, And if we want here, I might add in a little brush this kind of paint on, Let's go out and do undo that by pressing controls your command Z. And then let's go ahead. Hold on altar option. And let's just paint kind of so that this background right here is nice and warm and everything else kind of radio. Lee drops off into that blue. Now what were essentially emulating is is kind of like all the light coming from behind is blue and everything that's kind of in the shadows or sorry, all the light from behind is a little more warm. Everything in the shadows a little more blue, simple easy peasy. Okay, so this actually looks pretty cool now from here. What I'm gonna do is actually go over to that JPEG file and you're going to notice with a J peg that it's very nasty, yellow Brighter. But the problem is, is that nasty yellow tones. We're gonna press W and get the same white balance off this. I really don't care about anything other than just this, like, little reflection pool that has hints of blue in it. So what I'm gonna do is add a bit of contrast to it. Added a little bit of clarity, maybe deep in the shadows, a little bit deep in the blacks, little bit just because I want a little bit of pop in a little bit of color there. And then we're gonna go ahead and add a little bit more tint and a bit of warmth, and that's good. Okay, so with these two shots now, let's grab both of them. I'm going to go ahead and jump into layers in Photoshop. Now, notice that one was a JPEG one was a raw file. Okay, It's not gonna be a big deal, because what we're going to be doing is actually, uh, you know, what we should have done to is actually incorporate the noise reduction on both those. So that way, one image wasn't getting more grainy than the other. And we can do that real quick. Let's go ahead and close these out, and I'm gonna jump back into light room. Let's go ahead and press control, shift to your command shift. See, press. Nothing other than check. None other than noise reduction. Copy that. Let's go ahead and drop this control shift via command. Shift me to drop that over the other image. Let's go ahead and pop these back into Photoshop. Okay, So this technique is essentially light painting, but with a double exposure. So what I'm gonna do here is let's go ahead and just get this all centered up here so we can see everything and this Go around. I'm gonna add a mask right onto this top layer. I'm gonna go ahead and press B to bring up my brush tool with a flow about 15%. I'm gonna start painting black to conceal the top layer and reveal the blue below. What I'm aiming for is just some of that blue kind of toning in the water and kind of revealing of some of these leaves right about there. Okay, Now, if I wanted, I could actually paint a little bit of light over here right onto the side walls, but I don't. And in fact, what I'm gonna do, actually is just bring my flow down a little bit further. So that way, I'm getting a very subtle kind of amount of blue coming in. I'm going to paint a little bit of light onto that. And actually, I like it better with the edge of the pool kind of being darker. So I'm gonna paint white back over the edges so that we don't reveal any of this. And now I'm just gonna kind of feather this a little bit and kind of paint a little bit just to get the balance quite like nice and right. So all this is doing is just adding a little bit of extra detail into the bottom of the frame. And honestly, if we wanted to change the overall tonality, you want to darken it, you want to brighten it? We could just add an additional curves layer right over this underlying layer, and we can actually pull it up or darken it, kind of give it the overall look that we needed to have. So all I'm gonna do is pull that curve layer down a bit to kind of deepen the deep in the overall exposure just a bit, while kind of keeping the highlight and shadow points down as well raise it just a little. So now we get this kind of cool shot where the outside edges are sort of blending in and we get this little hint of blue at the bottom. That kind of ties everything in. The only thing that I I kind of wish was I wish we had a little bit more blues in the shadows around the other areas of the frame. We could do that in Photoshop, but I think the simplest thing honestly is to just close this out and let's go ahead and save it, close it out and go back to light room, and then let's just add it in manually with a brush with a brush. All I'm gonna do is just lower my temperature a little bit more, and I probably use a mouse on this one kind of painted into the size just a little bit. And what I'm essentially trying to do is kind of tie in those colors. So everything, including the reflection, is nice and kind of like warm. So you see what's behind them is all nice and warm. And as that light from the flash is kind of drops off, we're getting this blue tone all around the rest of the image. So I actually really like this the way it is right here. Now, I did two different versions of this, so let's go ahead and check it out. This is one version that we just did together. The earlier version that I did is this one, which is actually very similar. The only difference was in the earlier version I kind of exaggerated the the blue effect just a little more so I kind of made everything around just a little more blue. You can pull attempt down a little more. I also didn't reveal the water, so I actually didn't use that blending technique to kind of paint back in the detail in that area of the water. I just left it kind of dark, so pick your poison again. Both of these techniques kind of just plays into whatever your kind of artistic discretion is. It's completely subjective. You guys run with it, but I hope this was a fun technique to learn. Let's go ahead and jump 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


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.