Backlit is the new frontlit. Most photographers start out being taught that the sun or light source should be behind you - shinning directly onto your subject. Hence the term 'frontlit'. But as nice as this looks from time to time and in some necessary situations, it really is the standard and not nearly as interesting or exciting as it could be. Photography after all is about light, and being able to capture light from every angle. The moment you step away from the standard frontlit angle a whole world of thrilling opportunities present themselves. So shine up, and get moving.

In surf photography you will often find yourself being forced to shoot backlit whether you like it or not - especially when it comes to water photography. Waves break in a consistent direction, the sun sits in a certain part of the sky and you're limited to shooting a right or left with the sun behind your surfer. Stress not. This will only ever add to your photograph. You just need to exposure your photograph correctly as so not to blow out the sun or whitewater or silhouette your surfer and wave too much. It all depends on the look you're going for. I personally find, as with everything in life, that balance is the key to success. For example, in the below photo of Jarrad Howes at the Dunes I exposed for the water - 1/1000 @ F5.6. A good midpoint between the brights of the morning sun and the shadow of the surfers wetsuit and face. But what really makes backlit barrels so fascinating is the way the lip naturally diffuses the light. Like a giant man-made diffuser on a movie set (minus the half-naked crew) it softens the light and send even amounts of it bouncing around inside the tube. This is what gave my shot some naturally reflected light onto Jarrad's face.

Another trick to shooting backlit subjects is to obstruct using foreground.  I have found it very useful to use something in the foreground of your photo to soften the harshness of the light behind your subject. As seen below of Dusty Payne at Jeffrey's Bay, his backup surfboard during a heat was the perfect foreground obstruction because it also added something unusual to the photo. 1/1600 F5

To end off and just to recap. Backlit photographs are some of the best photographs you will ever shoot. The trick is just getting the right balance of exposure between highlight and shadow, and good old clever composition. Good luck.


Keep the Faith, Live the Dream

Views: 66

Add a Comment

You need to be a member of Shot Bru to add comments!

Join Shot Bru



Cannot upload

Hey hiI am having a problem.I log in fine.. but as soon as i choose the upload option i get a red triangle in the address bar and i cannot upload images. Am told that it is ani secure sight. How can…Continue

Started by christopher Aug 29, 2019.

J Bay Point

Waves have been really good this last week at Point - not small either "LOCALS ONLY"Continue

Started by Mouse Billson Aug 24, 2019.

Camera Lens 1 Reply

Hey guys .I'm looking at getting a new lens for my camera , something ideal for quality crisp pics , but something at a reasonable price #studentlife!Any suggestions??Thanks!Continue

Started by Carla Voigt. Last reply by Geecee Jul 10, 2018.


You are responsible for the photos and videos you submit to Shot Bru. If you didn’t take the shot yourself, or make the video, get permission from the owner first. If you’ve got your eyes on a Shot Bru prize or a spot in the pages of the main mag, please upload to Shot Bru before sending your photos on Facebook and other surfing websites cyber rounds. Fresh photos get priority for prizes and print. Finally, by loading image(s) onto Shot Bru you are granting Zigzag permission to feature your image(s) in the magazine, on the website and across our social media platforms free of charge.

Waveski, SUP, etc shots regularly get deleted due to a technical glitch. This glitch does not seem to affect surfing shots, which was designed for. We are having our developer look into the problem.

PLEASE NOTE: If you are posting a pic of a secret / semi-secret spot or a sensitive location, DO NOT say where it is. Shot Bru is for sharing photos and stoke. Not for exposing secret spots. The administrator reserves the right to change the description or nuke the shot if you don’t comply.

If you are going to upload photos of secret or very sensitive surf spots. Be vague about the location, or better yet flat out lie. We're okay with either.

Latest Activity

JY posted a photo


Just learned how to turn but I know I need a bigger wave and a better photograph to be put inside of the zigzag mag
Sep 21, 2023
Profile IconJY and Riccardo Walter Fabris joined Shot Bru
Sep 21, 2023
Riccardo Walter Fabris posted photos
Sep 21, 2023
Riccardo Walter Fabris posted photos
Sep 21, 2023
Riccardo Walter Fabris posted photos
Sep 21, 2023
Riccardo Walter Fabris posted photos
Sep 21, 2023
Riccardo Walter Fabris posted photos
Sep 21, 2023
Riccardo Walter Fabris posted photos
Sep 21, 2023



by chris clarke kelly slater riding off into the sunset

2018_MG_9806 Copryright Neil Hellerle (Neil H Photography)

by Neil H Photography Dan Redman Sequence 1.


by Craggi Kreations Kenny Andrews

© 2024   Created by Shot Bru Admin.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service