Looking at the photos from Elena Shumilova on 500px, you can see a clear preference for backlighting and halo effects on many of her subjects. For example, this and this.

How do you meter with the camera to get this kind of exposure where the scene is strongly backlit, the background isn't completely blown out, there is a good halo on the subject, and the details of the subject are still clear?

When I try to do this, I end up missing at least one of the above. Either I get a silhouette, or the blow-out is so bad I cannot get any detail back, or some other drawback. This is shooting with raw.

Is this just the excellent dynamic range capability of the camera or is there a technique to achieving this effect?

  • I think it is more about the shape of the light curves used in post processing. You do need a camera capable of wide dynamic range to pull it off, but almost any DLSR currently on the market has enough DR to pull it off.
    – Michael C
    Jun 5 '14 at 23:47

The trick here has nothing to do with metering, and everything to do with timing and atmospheric conditions.

You want to shoot late in the day when the sun is very low in the sky, preferably when there is lots of haze. This gives you a good diffuse light from the hazy area to lift the shadows and a manageable amount of rim lighting from the sun itself.

If you try this mid morning or mid afternoon or with very clear skies the contrast between the highlight and shadows will be too great, no mater how you meter or expose the photo. Even if you have a very wide dynamic range camera, or shoot multiple exposures to blend you will still have problems with flare.

Much better to simply wait until the highlight and shadows balance themselves!

see also: What is "golden hour"?


I think in these situations is best to underexpose and take advantadge of post-processing to bring back the shadows. One other think you might consider is that Elena has used flash (with gels) to compensate. I allways think a good use of flash is when you don't notice right away and, these might be good examples. Take a look at the tree, it's perfectly lit even though is back lit.

  • Good catch (tree)!
    – duality_
    Jun 23 '14 at 7:31

Elena has exposed lower than what you may have, at least as it appears in the bottom third, in the grass and such. I would tend to want to underexpose as well so I can capture the light around the birch leaves. Post treatment might include a gradient for exposure leaving the bottom untouched but reducing exposure in the sky and sun.


Some of the pictures look like there are reflectors, or very nicely balanced light or strobes to fill in the shadow details. I especially noticed the spect. highlights in the bunny eye.

I have never seen her before...I may have to worship her. ;)


The misty softness of some of her other pictures backgrounds which show little blurriness and yet a beautiful fade (which I dearly LOVE!) leads me to believe that she takes several shots and blends in photomatix or some like program. But still, I think she is reall good at taking those several photos to begin with. thanks for sharing and enjoy taking pictures at close of day!

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