Adding a backlight for a more dramatic portrait

I always love to get some dramatic photos of the groom and/or groomsmen before the wedding. If I can use lighting to add some drama to the photo then I’m all for it and many times will setup a very quick 2 or 3 light setup with my flashes to get a cool shot of the guys. For a wedding awhile back the guys were getting ready in a huge room lined with wine barrels. It was a really cool background and originally I was going to light it with just 1 flash my 580ex. The flash was set to ETTL and triggered with a Pocketwizard. I set the camera to 1/20th of a second to get a little ambient light and had the aperture set to f/2.8. Here is what just using 1 flash set to the side of the camera looked like:

1 light strobist

Then I decided to add just 1 more light to the image and place a Vivitar 285 flash to the background and have a little fun. The light was set to manual and low power. I pointed the light back towards the camera and right at the edge of the subject. Since the light just barely hit the lens of the camera you get a pretty interesting bit of flare and a cool halo around the right edge of the subject. The main flash was still set to ETTL.

2 light setup for a backlit portrait

This was straight out of the camera without any adjustments so to add a bit of a retro flare to get the feel I was going for with one of our Lightroom presets from the Essential Wedding collection.


Pretty straightforward lighting setup, if you have any questions just let me know below.

If you want to see my list of lighting gear that I normally bring to a wedding check out this post:
What Lighting I bring to a wedding

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Author: Mark

Mark is a fine art wedding and portrait photographer from Northern California. He has been passionate about photography since childhood and started his studio 12 years ago to bring a fresh style of photography to the wedding and portrait world.

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