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Lighting 301

Lesson 5 of 26

Two-Light Environmental Backlighting

Pye Jirsa, SLR Lounge

Lighting 301

Pye Jirsa, SLR Lounge

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Lesson Info

5. Two-Light Environmental Backlighting
Pye demonstrates how to light the background while also using a second light source to wrap light around the subjects. Post-production instruction is included in this lesson.


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Lesson Info

Two-Light Environmental Backlighting

in this video, we're going to demonstrate a double backlighting technique. We're going to build on a technique from lighting to to add in a secondary light to really illuminate the entire background behind our subjects. In addition to that wrapping light directly behind them, the result is a simple to light setup and light pattern that's going to look fantastic, especially at night time, especially when you're shooting in trees and vegetation. And you really want to illuminate an entire area. Let's jump in the video. So let's go ahead and put the blooming backlight just behind them. So this is gonna be our blooming one. So this is gonna be a hopes to turn it off. So can you make that one be? Let's get this right behind their shoulders. Now I'm gonna put this Heath, you have a white shirt, so I'm actually gonna bounce off that shirt, so open to her just a little bit. There you go. You want to place that right here? You guys are gonna close against each other pretty tight now being in L.

A. We paid a grip just to permit and shoot with an l A for the day But here's the thing in L. A. And any other major metropolitan city. As soon as you step off the sidewalk, you're no longer on city property. You're on private property. So in this case, we're trying to get a shot real quick so we don't get any security guards coming in bothering us, which we did. So I didn't get a chance to explain what we're doing. Therefore, I'm going to explain it in the video, and the first thing that we're doing right now is we're setting up that primary backlight that's going to be used to illuminate our subjects. This is that wrapping backlight technique that we actually showed you guys back in lighting to getting a single light place directly behind them amia into a shirt, and we're gonna use it to create that blooming back light that creates that nice glow around our subjects. The only problem is you're going to see is that it leaves the background completely dark. So just remember when doing this technique, what we like to do is have the sphere or some sort of diffusion directly over, so that the light kind of goes everywhere. General, we're going to aim it into something bright, like a shirt. If we have that. Otherwise, you can also point it directly up. Just make sure it's not going straighten their faces or make sure you're not getting too much of that under light, where it blows out everything underneath their chin and what not. Okay, so that's the technique. Let's go ahead and dive back in and see what we do with this light where we get to and then what we're gonna do with our second light. Perfect. Okay. Oh, turn off yours. So that first one was on a right. Mhm. Okay, head goes on there. Okay. Pulling to each other. Guys. There you go. Right there. Let me just see here. Okay? So lights up. A lot of do we have agreed on that. Can we get a grid to go under over the spear? Let's pause here and take a look at what we've done. So we're at 1/50 of a second F two and isolate 100. This means that our flash power is probably going to be around the one quarter to 1/8 power setting. Okay, start from there and dial up or down. But we didn't make a single flash power adjustment between shot A and shot be. Here's all we did we added the grid and we know that that's going to cut down some of the light. We also pulled the light back just a little bit. So the grid is what prevents a lot of that light from spilling all over the leaves in the background and everything that we see in the shop so you can see it's spilling onto the ground. You can see the lights, the trees in the background being lit up and the trees up top in the second shot we see so much less. That grid has done such a great job in controlling that light. But what a grid is also going to do is dramatically cut down the amount of light coming out by around a stop, if not a little bit more. It just kind of depends on the type of grid used. So for the second shot, we get the light almost exactly where we want it, and we've also pulled it back just a couple feet from where the subjects are standing actually is probably more like just a foot so those subtle changes end up with that nice wrapping light that we're getting and they're looking great. Now we need to go and look at the scene because overall the scene is too dark. That's where the double back lighting technique is really fun. Because using that second backlight, we can illuminate the entire background and create some really cool images in any scene. But let's check that out. By watching the rest of the video. I'm going to go ahead and see if we can't get this a little bit. Okay? Look at each other, guys. There it is. Okay, so the key here is getting that second backlight far away. So our subjects are here. We have our first light source placed directly behind them, very close with that sphere and everything lighting directly into his chest. And we're getting that nice bounce and light around them. Now, The mistake I often see in this technique is that here we have trees all around. Trees, trees, trees, trees, trees, trees everywhere we have trees. The mistake I see is not going far enough back with that other light. So oftentimes a photographer go maybe 10 15 ft back, and what you end up with is instead of lighting the entire scene, it's lighting just everything here. And that's where you see the light basically on the ground, and it looks very artificial. It looks like there's light on the ground that's basically just combing out towards them now. It can be a cool effect of that desired, but usually for these types of shots, I like to pull the light source all the way back. So we're going all the way back as far as we can and powering it up so that we can light up the entire area. Now, a typical flash at 50 to 75 watt seconds should be enough for that kind of light when you're shooting at I Esso and wide open and all that kind of stuff for 1600 I s O. So you're not going to need a ton of power. You might need to go up to full power on that back light for this specific set up. But that way, when that flash fires as you're gonna see in just a moment, it's gonna light up everything and it's gonna look uniform throughout the entire scene. Let's go ahead and keep going. Okay? Now what I need for that second light is now on B. So are you on channel B? So turn it on and go put it all the way back on the other side of that sidewalk. So go to sidewalks down, lighting this whole area and put it on 10 powers. I can see what it looks like first. The only trick in making sure that you get this technique right is ensuring that both back lights are completely covered by the subjects. If any bit of that light is revealed when they fire because you're shooting at hi I s O. S. And because you're using quite a bit of light, you're gonna create just nasty flares are gonna come through because the lights aren't fully covered. So take your time to make sure that the lights are in the exact position. The lights themselves can't see the camera. That's what I tell my assistance all the time. Make sure the light can't see the camera. What that means is I want my assistant to get directly behind where the light is and make sure that when they look that the couple themselves, the subjects completely cover up the camera. We're also doing that same thing Where if the light is positioned on Heath side, we're angling a little bit towards Gina. Or if the lights on the other side you in a little bit towards this way and making sure the subjects are blocking out the entire camera. So that's an easy way for your assistant to understand exactly what you want to make sure the light can't see the camera. Let's keep going. Okay? Look at each other guys. You wait for one second decades. Uh huh. Freaking me out. Alright, We're just gonna back it down a little bit. Okay? Right there, guys. Hold that. Ah, Can you put the flash on heath side and make sure it can't see the camera? Just turn on the console. Okay. This video was in real time, and you can already see out of the corner of the frame the security guards actually coming out to tell us that we are indeed on private property. This is not city property, and we have to move on. But within that three minutes, we still got our shot. Now one of The techniques that might actually calls out is he reminds me. Hey, you're using the pro photos here. Use the modern light. The model lights are a great way for you to make sure that you're not seeing the lights behind the subjects that they're completely covered up by your subjects. Because if you have the modern light on, you'll obviously see the flare in camera. So it's another great way to get it done quickly. If you have morning lights built into your flashes Oh, yeah. Just turn on the constant light. Oh, I got it, Mother Tucker. Okay, guys. Touch foreheads, touch foreheads. There we go. Perfect. Pause the video grabbed the exercise file and join me inside of light room. We're gonna develop this raw file now, Like most of our images, we've come a long way to getting it right in camera. This is gonna be very simple. Here's what I'm gonna do. I'm gonna start this with just some basic exposure tweaks. We're gonna bring it up by about a stop and I'm gonna do this. I notice that we have a lot of green in the image and I want a little more magenta is this is just a personal tasting. A lot of these things are I'm gonna add a little bit more tent and then I'm also going to lower my white balance to get to neutral. Then I'm going to raise the temperature until I get to that nice bit of warmth. And this is something that I do a lot. I'll lower it all. The way to neutral. Add in the magenta is to kind of where I wanted to be, and then I'll raise to kind of get to the right warmth that I wanted to photograph. It's a little trick that helps me a lot to get to the right place, especially when you've looked at a lot of photographs and your eyes kind of tend to, well, not be able to see so clearly. So from here we can just do a couple of the basic things that I would normally do, which is just raise shadows a little bit, raise my blacks a little bit, and honestly, that's about it. I might pull down a little bit of my white point just so that the whites aren't going so extremely bright. Okay, so we're going to pull down the white a little bit, and I might even adjust down the highlights a little bit. And then I can raise overall exposure. And now we get a little more balance between the, uh, that backlight and the kind of foreground and everything. So this is already looking really nice. The last thing I probably I'm going to add is just that same little radial filter with a burn. We can drop that right over them. And again, remember, the feather is all the way up. We're starting with a 0.5 burn, and from there you can just dial it up or down. Okay? I don't want to go too far with this. I think around 0.7 looks really nice. And the last thing that I'm gonna do is if you want to put some split toning into this, you totally can. I think it looks fine, as is. So the last thing that I really want to do is just take this into Photoshop, press control e or command E to get this into Photoshop real quick. And there's a couple background items that I want to clean up. The funny thing is, is when you take these items into Photoshop and you do a little bit of background work. You end up with a shot that looks so much more refined by just a little bit of background tweaks. So here's all I'm going to do. Let's go ahead and press control zero to kind of zoom in or command zero just to bring it to full screen. I'm gonna go ahead and grab my lasso tool and I don't see any of my tools right now. So let's just bring up the tool panel so that your Photoshop looks more similar to my Photoshop. You can totally edit without the tools, but I don't want you to be like What the heck happened? Okay, so all we're gonna do is select this little spot right here because this is a building logo that's showing through what? I don't mind the logo so much. I just mind that it's super bright. So again, we're going to shift backspace and go ahead and just knock that out with content aware, and we can do the exact same thing for the grass. So another way to do the grass, too, is, um, Well, let's just do the same thing. So what we're gonna do is select a little chunk of grass that's off with the shadow intact, and then you're gonna go shift backspace. If you find that the colors are a little bit off in the blending, then you can turn color adaptation on as well. But for a scene like this, it really shouldn't be all that necessary. I find that sometimes when you want it to match a texture a little bit more than just the color, that it's better to turn it off like you see here. So we're just gonna select this guy and get really tightened in there. I'm just gonna do this with all these little chunks here on grass on the ground. And the funny thing is, is that like, very subtle things like this really end up tightening up the overall image and making it look much more intentional and much more Um, yeah, how to describe it other than just it adds production value to the shot. Okay, if they're small little specks like this, the reason why I like to mix these guys is because they're bright. So when these go to print, they almost end up looking like a little bit of sensor dust. So instead of having these little bright flecks that might be overly bright in the shot, I'll just press shift j to get to my, uh, my healing tool. And I'll just heal those out real quick. I'm only worried about the ones that are, like, overly bright, and usually I just look from this level. If it jumps out of your I like this guy, then Nixon. If it doesn't jump out, then it's good you're you're okay to leave it. So I kind of zoom out and I kind of knock out any one of these things that jumps out a little bit to me. Now there are a couple other lights and objects that are standing out, so I'm just gonna select this guy. Same thing shift Backspace does a great job mixing it. This little light right here, where nix that. And if any of these, like, don't end up working out quite right. You know, I honestly, sometimes we'll just leave it because none of these are necessarily make or break items. So I'm not gonna spend a whole bunch of time like trying to make it perfect. What I do want to do is, um, Nick's stuff like this. I think I've said Nicks a lot in here. Mikey, would you agree There's a lot of nexus, okay. And then certain flyaways like this. I do like to get rid of We're just healing these out. Now. I'm gonna show you a little trick on another flyways, too, because sometimes you end up with, like again. He's having much lighter hair than Gina. Gina's hair is currently in braids, so it can be back light to whatever extent. It's not going to show up that much, but his hair is not. And so you get a lot of flyaways now. You could go with what soup Rice says, which is Don't retouch any of them, the flyways of the flyaways, and I sort of agree with her to that extent, like it's not really a big deal unless they're like overly obnoxious and distracting. But there is a simple way to kind of at least reduce them. What I like to do is actually use my clone stamp tool, so impressing s to bring up the clone stamp tool and alter option is sample and what I'm gonna do is just sample directly above the hair and just pull it in a little bit. So I'm not going to remove the flyways. What I'm essentially doing is just pulling in the flyways closer to the head. So that way we end up with still kind of a natural looking image with flyways present. But we've done a lot in reducing those and don't worry about, like, over here, we're just going to We'll end up fixing that with just another little adjustment that will make Okay, so this is already looking quite a bit better now. What I would do here is just take an area like this and let's let's first get rid of any other distracting flyways right here by just selecting our healing tool again and just kind of mixing these guys again with the Knicks. I just love that word. Next. Next, next. Nix, nix, nix, nix, nix, nix. In case you guys are counting and you're like, Oh, I want to count how many times he says Nixon this video, you know what I mean? Because they're gonna be able to do that. Okay, so what I'm gonna do is select this area right here. We have a couple different options. I always like to let content aware, try and do its thing, because more often than not, it gets it right, and it gets it really close like this. And I'm happy with that result. What I might do is sample from right here and just clone stamp again with a very thin brush, kind of directly below it to kind of separate it from the hair. And that's where I'm gonna call it just about good when I get rid of this one, too. So now what we've done is we've essentially reduced the flyaways we've We've preserved the you know, you don't have the thing that I what soup Rice worries about what I worry about in the whole, like removing the flyways is having that, uh, distinct edge. It's like you just have this smooth edge where the hair should have some roughness to it, and it looks very fake. It looks like you pasted somebody over the background that we want to avoid. This technique helps to avoid that because all you're really doing is pulling it in and you're maintaining the edge. So I will go ahead and just clean up a couple more of these items, and I'm gonna let you guys do that on your own. And then let's go ahead and go control zero to jump out, and you can see, make sure nothing else stands out to you and then save out your file. And basically, what we end up with is our final image, which you guys saw a little bit earlier. It's this shot. Okay, so all we've done in this is just kind of and I actually didn't even pull in the flyaways on this one, so I probably would. You know what? Well, since I've done the work, I'm just gonna go ahead and say about that other file. Let's flip back here, and press control has to say that out. I like this one a little bit better. All right. So there is our final image right here that we worked on together. Flyways are cleaned up. We end up with this really beautiful shot. And you can see how that secondary backlight it evenly. Lights the entire scene here so we don't have and we could have pulled it back even further. Actually, But given the time, I think we did great. Three minutes, three minutes. We got our shot. You can see how it evenly lights all of the grass and we don't have that triangle That kind of extends out on each side. That makes it very obvious. This was lit with flash. We have all the trees being lit up in the background. If I could have done it again and I had a little more time, I would have had to take that flash back behind the other side, walk and get every single tree behind them, illuminated in the shot. That's it for our double back light technique. Hopefully you guys enjoyed. 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


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.