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Lighting 401

Lesson 15 of 20

Light and Airy Afternoon Backlight

Pye Jirsa, SLR Lounge

Lighting 401

Pye Jirsa, SLR Lounge

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Lesson Info

15. Light and Airy Afternoon Backlight
No direct sun for bright and airy portraits? No problem. Pye demonstrates how to create your own. Post-production instructions are included in this tutorial.

Lesson Info

Light and Airy Afternoon Backlight

So now let's flip the script a little bit and we're going to shoot a completely different subject matter. I'm going to take you out onto a maternity session with Jackie and Ryan, and here's the deal. Basically, about 20 minutes into the chute, we lost our son. Now, this isn't because we planned to shoot poorly. This is because we never shot that location before and we were doing a porter session. So what did I do? I look the location and looked at Sunset Times, and we plan based on that. So we're there, like, to 4 hours prior to sunset. Now, at that particular spot, there's a hill, and what you're going to see is the sun is going to drop away behind the hill about 30 minutes in the chute or 3 to 3.5 hours before sunset. So we're gonna show you how to deal with that and add in your own light to kind of recreate the sunlight during more of a mid afternoon sort of session. Let's do that Free 10 like you see it. I love that. Okay, Ryan, whisper something soft and sweet in your ear. Turn, ...

turn into her ear. And when you're kind of doing it, There you go and then write and tell me what you said. America. I'm watching. So I don't want you guys to kind of look down towards Jackie's shoulder right there. Perfect, Ryan. Chin up a little bit. Perfect. Oh, that's adorable. Hold that right there. That's so cute. Yeah, Yeah. Jackie from right there. Look up towards me. Adorable. And then Ryan, now mhm. Jackie Chan applique at Ryan. There you go. Right there. Mhm. That's super cool. I love it. Turn it in. Just a little bit towards me. Perfect. From right there. Right. And go for a peck on her forehead. Thank you. Perfect. Keep doing that. Now, look down into the left side a little bit. And then Ryan looked down towards Jake. I want to keep on. I said, Jack. Yes. Yeah. Mhm. I love that. Hold that right there, guys. Hold it. Don't change a thing. There you go. Perfect. They prefer. Mm. Perfect. That's just for you guys. It's cute. All right, So here's what we have so far, we have Jackie and Ryan position right here, and they're basically on this hill that's kind of sloping. And they're on the flat part, and it kind of slopes down again. The sun is up here and lighting in. And what's about to happen is it's going to drop behind them in the scene. But the sun is kind of coming in from the back side, lighting up the trees, lighting up everything behind them, and we're sitting here shooting this way. Um, and so all these trees and everything here that these are my my trees. Best job. Bob Ross, Mr Happy Cloud. Okay, so that sunlight is about to dip away, and you're gonna see the images get a lot more flat as soon as it does. That's awesome. Look at each other, guys. Super cute. Look at Jake. Yeah, Digger. Mhm, of course. Yeah, that's okay. Okay. So now the light is down, and what we're gonna do is run a light up and we're going to place that light kind of right in the trees and angling down towards them. Now, if I can go back hindsight I probably would have taken an additional flash out for this shoot, because what's the difference in whether we can get a convincing light versus not is the fact that we just don't have enough power. And the second thing is, I actually forgot my zoom dish for this particular shoot. So I end up using a just a bracket on the end of I believe it was a B one, and it doesn't really have the same effect as that zoom dish that would throw the light forward towards my subjects where I wanted it. So I would have loved to have more power if that was possible. But at a minimum, at least have a zoom dish on that B one and about 500 watt seconds would have been the minimum of what I would want in a scene like this. Remember that. We're gonna be doing that with no gel. So let's go ahead and look at where the Flashes Place now. Yeah, yeah. Don't bring up. Hold on. Right there, gorgeous. Okay, hold right there. Yeah. Mhm, Paul. Mhm. Jackie, look towards me, Jackie. Do one where you kind of kick the hip and and turn to the side a little bit. And then let's go. Right hand over the belly. Cute. Yeah, gorgeous. And then do that same thing but kind of turn into me a little more, so I kind of turned towards me. There you go. And keep the hips kick a little. Now with the flash placed. Look at the difference between these two shots. Now, I know at first glance, the changes rather subtle. Number one, This is because we're losing a lot of that light around the entire environment, since we don't have the zoom dish, but you can still see the light kind of kissing the trees in the background. If we had more, this background would have been even brighter, and we would have had more of the foliage kind of lit up on the right side. But even the way it is, it looks nice. It looks decent. We're getting a little bit more of that bright highlight kind of hitting the ground, which will be great because we can shoot up and towards the light and get even more. But more importantly, look at Jackie's body. On this shot, we see this nice rim and edge lighting that really does a beautiful job of highlighting her figure in the shot versus the show on the left that ends up just being a little bit flat. Now. There's nothing wrong with the show on the left, but I do prefer the show on the right. Either way, we're going to process them to be bright and airy. But when this is processed and it looks nice and lit and bright, it's going to have that nice highlight edge lighting that really accentuates everything in the scene. So now let's go and keep watching as we shoot through for a few more final images using our light. You know what? I'm going to go from this side. I cannot stand. Dig that And then Jacks. Let's go. Left me across the front. There you go. More left me. There you go right there. Perfect. Do I dig that? Brian, bring your left leg back too. So it doesn't look like it's amputated. There you go. You can put it a little bit further behind her, like more behind, but just not all the way behind her a little bit more. Okay, so I've given you guys three images to work with One is this one, and you can see from this angle we get a really nice reflection from the soil and everything is kind of being backlit in the background, which really adds a nice, dreamy look to the image. Um, and this is the raw file, by the way. It already looks really nice and polished. Um, this is the other raw file for the overall scene, and then you have this one as well, shooting a bit wider and seeing that light coming in and coming through and kind of giving that nice backlight but also adding shape and highlights to the bodies. So let's just take one of these images and process it because what I would like to do to this image is just bring it up and exposure quite significantly, so you'll see that I'm pulling it up around a full stop. Now, why would I do this in post as opposed to in camera in camera? I really want to maximize my dynamic range. And if I had some detail in this guy that I want to preserve some blues, that would be important to do so here. There's not really much, but that's okay. So what I would typically do this is if I were using the flow presets honestly, I would just press soft, light modern. It's going to automatically do literally everything for me, including the exposure bump and everything based on what I'd shot. But we're gonna do this by hand so I can show you guys what that is essentially doing. What we're doing is we're adding about a stop of exposure, and for this particular image, I'm actually going to add a little bit of highlights. Pull the whites a little bit down. Let's go ahead and add a little bit of shadows and also pull the blacks up pretty dramatically. Because I I do want this to have a nice, soft lighting area kind of feel to it. I'm also gonna add a little bit more magenta and just kind of leave this image with a slightly more cooled look. And I want to have a slightly more dreamy vibe as well. So I'm gonna reduce texture and clarity a little bit. I'm going to add a tiny bit of D. Hayes just to give a little more contrast in this area down the bottom. Okay, Now all we're gonna do is we're gonna go back down to our spot. Sorry. Not spot split toning, and we're gonna add a tiny bit of split toning up to the highlights. Let's put it like around put it right around here. And then I want my blues to actually be quite blue in this one. So I'm gonna actually lift it up a little bit more than I usually would put the balance at around plus six. And I might even cool down the image a little bit based on that. Okay, so I'm gonna leave the image very bright, very airy, just like this. And that's really it from here. If I wanted to tweak my contrast a little bit, I might add just a little bit of overall contrast just to get to pop. But that's it. So I want you to see that before versus the after here. And I wanted to see how that backlight sort of plays into this. So if I was to actually show you all if we were to grab that previous image where we didn't have the backlight firing, it was this one, right? So here to grab this one and sink over the exact same settings, I want you to see the differences because it's a subtle change. Yet I feel like it adds a lot to the image. When we look at the leaves up here, you can see that little highlight that's being added. And I love that highlight. I feel like it adds a lot of interest to the image, but most especially, it's this section down here. We look at the highlights on the body of Jackie right here. Granted, I do like the expression on this one a little bit better, but we have that nice highlight that really chisels out the body in the frame. So that's what I'm saying. That's what I love about this. What I would probably do is do a head swap on this. Take the head from this one, take the face from this one, pop it over here on this one. But anyway, I want you guys to see the difference in that lighting pattern and what it does to the scene. And we process the other ones in this set just the same way I'm gonna give you guys a couple different files you guys can play with. For now, let's go ahead and move on to the next video

Class Description


  • Use portable flashes & modifiers to simulate natural light on-location.
  • Re-create golden hour without depending on the sun.
  • Use fog and flares to create an atmosphere and enhance the existing light.
  • Use Flash for advanced in-camera dodging and burning.
  • Mimic window light with flash.
  • Use creative backlighting as the main light.
  • Create realistic sun flares with Flash.


One of the most common misconceptions about flash photography is that flash makes an image look unnatural. In this flash workshop, the fourth in the lighting series, Pye Jirsa, teaches photographers how to create every natural light effect with flash, including golden hour, soft window light, and direct sun. These techniques, combined with the knowledge you gained from Flash Photography Crash Course, Lighting 101Lighting 201, and Lighting 301, give you full mastery of flash photography and full control of the light in any scene.

Photographers are constantly faced with unexpected lighting challenges. A client may want the golden hour look after the sun has already set. Weather conditions can delay or move your shoots. You may want a natural window light look in a room without windows. The list of potential challenges goes on and on, and being able to adapt to unexpected changes in lighting is a critical skill set for a professional photographer.

The workshop works through nearly 20 scenes from start to finish, showing you how to set up and light each scene. We also provide you with over 50 exercise files so that you can work alongside us in post to achieve the final look. In addition to learning how to light and capture the images featured in this workshop, you’ll also learn how to post-produce the images in Lightroom and Photoshop to get to the final look.

Just like Lighting 301, this workshop includes “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.


  • Photographers with a basic understanding of flash photography who want to elevate their lighting skills.
  • Those who prefer the look of natural light but don’t want to limit their shoots to certain hours of the day or depend on specific weather conditions.


Adobe Lightroom Classic 2019
Adobe Photoshop 2019



Jye is an exceptional teacher and these videos really breakdown the construction of great lighting techniques. Enjoy the dry humour throughout. Well worth watching for even experienced photographers as there are lots of tips and tricks here.


Kyle made Pye's work look simple. I learned a lot of new ideas and was reminded of some that I had forgotten about. I'll be reviewing 201-401 again with the practice images.