Family Photo Tips While Social Distancing, Part 4

Fall 2020

I love backlit photos. They match the mood I often try to portray in my photos of connection, love, and bonding. Backlit photos work well at golden hour – the hour before sunset. In the summer, it’s often hard to catch golden hour with children who need to get to bed. Now that the days are so short, afternoon hikes mean we can catch golden hour sunsets at 3:30pm. That’s a perfect time to whip out the phone and try your own backlit photos.

In case you missed it, here’s a link to

What are backlit images?

When the main light is behind your subject, the image becomes more dimensional, dramatic, and even romantic. However, properly composing and exposing for these images takes practice. Professional lenses can better handle the pouring in of light. Composition and timing are also crucial. However, there is one small trick that works super well to help you get better backlit photos even just using a phone.

The problem

One major issue with backlit photos is unwanted flare or haziness. Sometimes, well placed sun flares can be beautiful. However, if the flare is competing with your subjects or even over your subject, it is usually not a good look. Facing the light can also cause general haziness to the point of washing everything out. A lens hood can help with these issues and are often essential in retaining contrast. They work just like the visor on a baseball cap, blocking unwanted light from entering the lens. It’s easy to see how when you see it on my lens below.

photo showing Sony a7iii with Tamron lens with hood

However, I often don’t use my lens hood. When I know I’ll be in various lighting situations, I love using my Expodisc to set my white balance. My Expodisc is larger than my lens, and I don’t want to take the lens hood on and off in order to do this. I also like the flexibility of just using my hand to shield the lens only when I need to. You can use your hand to shield your phone too. So…


Here are two images taken one right after the other while hiking at Red Rock Wilderness Overlook. Same angle, same old iPhone 8 Plus in portrait mode. No edits made at all to either image. My daughter is standing between me and the setting sun, which is only partly filtered by the trees.

comparison of backlit photo with shade vs no shade

The only difference is that in the second image, I am shielding the top of the phone with my hand. It takes a bit of practice to get that right placement where my hand isn’t in the frame but it is close enough to block the light.

its of using hand to help with backlit photo

You can see by the shadow of the trees that I am directly facing the sun, which is why the first photo is so washed out. See how just my hand shielding the top of the phone dramatically changes the resulting image?

Backlit glow

In the shielded photo that there is a lovely glow all around my daughter but no harsh light directly in her face. Harsh light can cause squinting and shadows under eyes.

That’s Tip 4! I hope you have fun experimenting with simple backlit phone photos. Make sure you subscribe to my newsletter for future tips and announcements. Leave me a comment or tag me on Instagram or Facebook @robinsgambatiphotography to show me your social distancing family photos taken with this tip! I would love to see them.

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