Rim light is also known as a halo of brightness around a subject.
As we progress as wildlife photographers, we are constantly looking for ways to improve our skill and tapping creativity from every possible source.
When shooting into the sun, one can create beautiful and interesting results, including well-lit edges around our subjects; rim light. This is a very interesting way to photograph animals and can open another door in the vast expanse of photography.
First of all, shooting into the sun midday won't produce proper results, since the sun is very high and light harsh. Using morning or evening light is better, since the sun is much lower and the light much more appealing. The back light is also more dramatic.
A few tips to keep in mind:
- Exposure is an important factor. Keep in mind that when shooting into the sun, the textbook exposure will not necessarily produce the best rim light effect. The histogram will look ridiculous spiking in the very dark and bright areas, don't mind that. I always suggest using spot metering in stead of evaluative metering and try to expose between the very bright light and the dark shade. This can be tricky, even more with fast moving subjects like birds.
- Exposure Compensation is very handy. First try -1. If the overall scene is still to bright, try -2.
- Creating silhouettes of animals can be easy: do spot metering on a bright spot in the scene and the result will be a dark subject with subtle rim light. If it's not to your liking shoot another set of pics...trial and error.
- The flare problem. Shooting directly into light creates crazy flares in the frame. Always use a lens hood to prevent flare in your photograph. NOTE: If your subject can block the sun completely it can be even a better scenario, since the result can be even more dramatic and the flare problem is completely solved.
- Homogeneous or dark backgrounds works the best to make the subject 'pop'. A dark background will also accentuate the rim light around the animal.
- Using Flash. In some cases, when the subject is not too far away, a flash can provide some light and detail in the dark and shady areas. One should determine the outcome and goal of the photograph: do you want subtle rim light with details in the shadows, or do you want the subject to be completely blacked out?
Also check out this article from fellow photographer Keith Connelly on Creating Deep, Rich & Impactful Back-lit Imagery, a must read!
Hope these few tips helped to make your next photo safari even more interesting!