- Backlighting (lighting design)
In the context of
lighting design, backlighting refers to the process of illuminatingthe subject from the back. In other words, the lighting instrument and the viewerare facing towards each other, with the subject in between. This causes the edges of the subject to , while the other areas remain darker. The back light is usually placed directly behind the subject in a 4-point lighting setup.
A back light, which lights foreground elements from the rear, is not to be confused with a
background light, which lights background elements (such as scenery).
The back light is sometimes called hair or shoulder light, because when lighting an
actoror an actress, backlighting will cause the edges of his or her hair to glow if he or she has fuzzy hair. This gives an angelic halo type affect around the head. This is often used in order to show that the actor or actress so lit is "good" or "pure". In televisionthis effect is often used in soap operasand has become something of a clichéof the genre. It is also sometimes called the kicker.
Backlighting helps to provide separation between the subject and its background. In the
theatreit is often used to give a more three-dimensional appearance to actors or set elements, when front lighting alone would give a two-dimensional look. In " chiaroscuro" effects in painting, such as the candlelit paintings by Joseph Wright of Derby("illustration, left"), backlighting helps separate subjects in the foreground and emphasizes depth.
In photography, a back light (usually the sun) that is about sixteen times more intense than the
key lightwill produce a silhouette.
The vertical angle of the back light can change the effect. A low angle could cause the light to hit the camera lens, causing a
lens flare. A high angle could cause the nose of the subject to extend out from the mostly-vertical shadow of the head, producing a potentially unwanted highlight in the middle of the face.
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