Your guide to digital camera scene modes
May 16, 2008
A strong light behind the main subject usually fools the camera’s built-in automatic light meter—and the results can be awful. The subject’s face is often too dark because the camera, in its attempt to achieve correct overall exposure, can be over-influenced by the background.
This is what’s known as backlight, and it’s very common.
The Backlight Mode understands what’s going on and adjusts the exposure to compensate for the stark difference between foreground and background. In other words, it overexposes the scene slightly so that the subject is properly exposed (even though the background may be washed out).
A couple of other ways to conquer backlight are as follows. First, move the subject so that the bright light source is not behind them (sounds simple, but you’d be surprised by how many people don’t do that even when they can). Another option is to use the Spot Metering setting. Be sure to keep the metering area indicator on the main subject. Or if your camera has an exposure lock (AE Lock) you can move in close, take the meter reading, and then return to the shooting position.)
The last, and often best alternative, is to activate the camera’s Fill Flash (or Forced Flash) setting. The flash will fire just enough to brighten the subject’s face and, most of the time, the background will still be properly exposed and not blown-out.
Want to learn more about scene modes? Visit the Canonical List of Digital Camera Scene Settings.