Mastering Photographic Composition, Creativity, And Personal Style

This is an excerpt from Alain Briot’s Mastering Composition, Creativity and Personal Style, published by Rocky Nook, Inc. Briot states, “The personality of the photographer must be present in the image for an artistic photograph to have value.” And in this book he sets out to teach what is essential in achieving this goal.

Sunflower – Sunset

Briot approaches fine art photography as being a combination of art and technique, and in this book he addresses both. On the artistic side, Briot introduces artistic concepts that have been rarely associated with photography. On the technical side, he presents numerous tools that can help you learn to create better photographs and provides technical solutions to common photographic problems. We thought you’d enjoy this excerpt as a sampling of what this fine book has to offer.—Editor

Backlight, or backlighting, is one of the most dramatic types of natural light. If you want to create dynamic images, then you need to consider backlighting.

For backlight to work the sun must be in a low position. While it is possible to create a backlight effect with the sun high in the sky, most foreground objects are simply not tall enough to be backlit when the sun is high.

Canyon de Chelly – Sunrise
All Photos © 2009, Alain Briot, All Rights Reserved

A low sun means photographing at sunrise or sunset. This means that you not only get backlight, you also get the color and drama of sunrise and sunset. As I said, if you want dynamic lighting, this is it.

Backlighting a subject basically means placing this subject right in front of the sun. The light therefore comes from behind the subject, highlighting the contours of the object or of the entire scene.

You can choose whether or not to have the sun itself visible in a backlight situation. In the example “Sunrise at Canyon de Chelly,” the scene is backlit but the sun is not visible. The sun is located in the middle of the image and above the canyon, but was not included in the photograph. What we have is backlight without seeing the light source itself.

Mesa Arch – Sunrise

In the other examples, the light source—the sun—is shown in the photographs. We therefore have the backlit subject plus the light source making for an image as dynamic as possible, especially when combined with a wide-angle view, since wide angles by nature create dynamic compositions.