Contre-jour (backlight behind your subject) Photography

Contre-jour results in subject backlighting

Contre-jour, a French expression for a method of photography by which images are captured by using the camera in a position where the light source hits the camera's front directly. The Contre-Jour term comes from a French expression which denotes against daylight. Contre-jour also expresses backlighting. ✓

Contre-jour results in subject backlighting. This effect most often obscures details, brings about a greater contrast between dark and light, creating silhouettes and emphasizing shapes and lines. The sun, or another source of light, often appears as being either a brilliant spot or as an intense glare coming from behind the subject. Fill light may also be used to shed light on the portion of the subject that's facing the camera.


Backlighting within the framework of lighting design is the procedure for focusing light on the back side of a subject. Another way of saying that, the light source plus the viewer are face to face with one another, while the subject in the middle. Subsequently the subject's edges glow, although the other areas stay darker. Back lighting is typically placed precisely behind the subject using a 4-point illumination arrangement. A back light, that lights up foreground subjects from the back, should not to be mistaken with background lighting, which lights the background elements (like scenery).

Back light is called shoulder or hair light sometimes, because when using light for an movie star, backlighting will create glowing of the edges of their hair if they also have fuzzy hair. This puts off an angelic halo style effect around their head. This is typically used to illustrate that the entertainer is well lit . For television the effect is typically used for soap operas which has turned into some what of a cliché for the genre. Sometimes it's also called the rim light or kicker.

Backlighting helps in providing separation of the subject from its background. Used in theatre shows it is typically used to provide a stronger three-dimensional view of actors or elements of the set, when front lighting by itself would only provide a two-dimensional effect. Chiaroscuro effects within paintings, like he candlelit paintings, backlighting helps in separating subjects along the foreground plus places and emphasis on depth.

For photography, using a back light (typically the sun) which is around sixteen times stronger than what a key light produces for a silhouette. A back light's vertical angle can alter the effect. A low angle may bring about the light hitting the camera lens, creating lens flare. A high angle might cause the subject's nose to appear to extend away from the almost-vertical head shadow, bringing about a potentially superfluous highlight right in the middle part of the subject's face.

Contre-jour emphasizes the Silhouettes of the couple in the above photo
Contre-jour emphasizes the Silhouettes of the couple in the above photo.



The silhouette is a vision of a scene or an object made up of an outline containing an interior without features, with the object silhouetted typically being black. At the outset, the term was coined during the 18th century being applied to portraits and other types pictorial representations cut out using thin black card stock.

The expression has been expanded to describe the image or sight of an object, person or scene which is backlit, and seems dark against a paler background. Due to a silhouette emphasizing an outline, the expression has also been expressed in the fashion and fitness fields to describe the body of a person or a resulting shape by wearing a particular period or style of clothing Silhouette images are often created using any type of artistic media, however the cutting out of portraits using black card stock tradition has continued on well into our 21st century. updated article Nov 14, 2011

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