Rim lighting for portraits
I don’t have a flashgun, so how do I get that lovely rim lighting effect in portraits? Gale Dunlop You’ll be delighted to know that flash lighting isn’t necessarily needed if you want to get this look: you just need some decent, directional sunlight to work with. And you are right; it does look fabulous when it all comes together.
Low light in the early morning or late evening tends to work best: as the sun gets higher, the natural light spreads and your model is more top-lit. With low directional light you can easily position your model between yourself and the sun, and its effect should be obvious as that halo effect appears around the edges of the body.
However, there are some things that you need to take into account. While the rim lighting effect can make your subject stand out from the background, that will only happen if the background is darker. That doesn’t mean it has to be black, but you want some shadow areas behind your subject to accentuate the backlighting.
As a general rule, I’d suggest that you use a telephoto lens to simplify composition and help separate the subject from the background – and always pop the lens hood on. Even if you are not shooting directly into the sun, without a lens hood, you might find that your image lacks contrast because of the impact of unwanted lens flare.
You will also need to dial in some exposure compensation, because the bright light behind the subject could fool the camera’s meter. I usually start with +1 exposure compensation and either reduce or increase that when I’ve been able to assess the first couple of images using the rear display’s preview and histogram.