Rim-lit photography is one of the best ways to get creative with light. For those who are new to the term Rim-lit let me explain what it means. Simply put, rim-lit photography is where the outline of the subject is much brighter than the rest of the frame. In this post I will explain how you can use exposure compensation and AE-L to obtain this.
Take a look at the example below.
The 3 images were clicked one after the other.
Here is what the camera thought in the first image (leftmost) : When the camera was pointed towards the subject, the camera read the light (based on selected metering mode) and came up with some combination of shutter and aperture. In this given case the camera saw that 90% of the frame is made by very dark subject (the dark trees) and thus chose to expose for them rendering the Langur slightly over-exposed (too bright)..
In-order to convert this into a proper rim-lit shot we need to be able to tell the camera to measure light slightly differently. We should be able to tell the camera to measure only the light coming in from the brightest area in the frame (which is the Langurs fur bouncing off the sunlight).
One of the easiest ways to do this is actually by letting the camera do what it is doing and telling it to over-ride its measurement by some amount. That is what Exposure Compensation is all about.
Take a look at the result when the same scene was exposed after dialing in an exposure compensation of -1.7 and then -3.
When you dial a Negative compensation, you are actually telling the camera that
‘You have made a mistake in measuring the light (leftmost image), so please do not allow so much light to come in, I want the overall result darker‘
If you were in Aperture priority, the camera will increase the shutter speed to get lesser amount of light inside and thus result in darker and dramatically different images compared to what the camera thought was correct.
The subject chosen here is a Langur. I have found langurs to be the best subjects to try rim-lit photography. Just make sure that the sun is behind the subject and at a relatively low angle…for e.g. a 11am or a 2am sun will never give you rim lit shots, so try when the sun is hanging low in the sky and the background is dark.
Please remember that you will actually see a rim-lit with your naked eyes and its not something that is just created by some camera trick. The only thing that we are doing is making sure the camera captures it right by using Exposure compensation.
Please note that Rim-Lit will only happen if you are able to see the subject rim-lit with your naked eyes. You can then play with the exposure to enhance the effect as we did in the above set of 3 images.
Position yourself such that there is a straight line going through you, the subject and the source of light – check image below
Here are a few more samples of rim lit images
The easiest way to try rim-lit is to do the following
Catch hold of a friend/family member and make them stand in front of a bike in the night. They should be covering the headlight of the bike completely. If you stand at the other end with your friend in between yourself and the light source, you should be able to see his entire body rim lit. Now that I have told you how to get a subject, go out there with your camera and start trying the exposure compensation trick to get some fabulous rim-lit images.
There is one more way to go about Rim-lit and thats by using Metering Lock (AE-L). You need to point your camera to the source of light, let the metering give you a value for shutter/aperture, then press the AE-L button on your camera which will lock these values till you click, then re-position your camera to how you want the composition and click. That ways you don’t need to bother about changing back the exposure compensation.