Black+White Photography

Into the light

Want to add impact to your monochrome images? Try pointing your camera at the sun instead of away from it. Lee Frost offers his top tips for creating great shots by shooting contre-jour.

All images © Lee Frost

Image: Fira, Santorini, Greece

1. On a high

The first thing you need to remember when shooting into the sun is that contrast – the difference in brightness between the highlights and shadows – is going to be much higher than normal because you’ll have intense brightness in the background and potentially extreme darkness in the foreground. This does vary enormously. For example, on a misty morning, contrast is much lower than on a sunny day. However, in all situations the sun and sky are always going to be much brighter than the rest of the scene, so you need to take care when determining the exposure and adjust it according to the type of result you want.

Image: Havana, Cuba

2. In silhouette

If you just set your camera to aperture-priority (or any automatic exposure mode) and fire away, more often than not you’ll get an exposure that’s correct for the bright background, while the much darker foreground records as a silhouette because your camera’s metering system is overly influenced by the bright tones in the scene. Far from being a mistake, this effect can produce stunning results.

Image: Cienfuegos, Cuba

3. The low down

Around sunrise and sunset is a great time to shoot silhouettes, as the sun is low in the sky, and you can juxtapose subjects against it.

I love shooting in city streets at dawn once the sun comes up. Harsh light glances off tyre-worn asphalt and overhead power lines, while cars are reduced to silhouettes and exhaust fumes are backlit to add atmosphere. Shadows also rush towards the camera, adding depth and dynamism.


Read more in issue 287.

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