Back Light Control and What it Does for You


If you have a camera with the ability to do back light metering, you can increase your ability to capture the pictures you really want.

Some of us have cameras with ability to do back light metering. But, do you know what it does or how it can help your photos?

Credits: neanderthalis

Some cameras with light meters also have the ability to do back light metering. Often this tells the light meter to compensate for the bright lights behind or reflected near your subject that would normally leave your subject underexposed. Have you ever taken a photo of someone at the beach or a sunset at their back, only to find out their face is dark when you develop? The strong bright lights overpower your light meter and closes the shutter before the light reflecting off your subject’s face is absorbed by the negative. Sometimes this can be countered by a flash, but that is battling light with light. Back light metering helps do this without added light.

without and with back light metering

In the case of Canon AE-1, there is a button on the left hand side of the barrel that when held, opens up the Aperture by 1.5 and allow more light per exposure. On my Olympus XA, there is a lever that I move to do the same 1.5 opening of the aperture. This of course lowers your depth of field and can washout your background in light.

Here are some examples of normal and with the Back Light Metering in effect while I was at the botanical gardens.

the light at the center of the tree is causing the light meter to choose a smaller aperture leaving the rest of the tree dark
the back light is too much for the light for the light meter to recognize the leaves
Credits: neanderthalis

I have heard some people also try this by tricking their cameras in other ways like changing your ISO to lower number like opening the LC-A+ light meter from 200 to 100 ISO or covering their light meters to allow the aperture to open up.

So if you have this feature on your camera, why not give it a try. You may find yourself using it for better portraits or getting that shot that used to frustrate you.

you can see how the depth of field narrowed & the abundance of light illuminating the leaves now.

These were taken with Fomapan 100 and a Canon AE-1.

Credits: neanderthalis


written by neanderthalis on 2012-12-04 in #gear #tipster #quickie-tipster #camera #shadow #control #b-w #light #metering #stop-down


  1. vicuna
    vicuna ·

    Good to know! I think I have such an option on my Agfa Selectronic, but it's more a "exposure memory", you set the camera exposure on a darker place, push the button on the lens barrel and then shoot the picture you want with this memorized exposure... but I never did try it out...

  2. neanderthalis
    neanderthalis ·

    @vicuna That feature on your Agfa seems similar to one of my pocket digital cameras. It is interesting to know that Agfa had that figured out long ago. Thank you for reading this article.

  3. adam_g2000
    adam_g2000 ·

    Great article, I don't think I have a camera that does it, but I'll make sure my next one does - it's a source of frustration!

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