Simple Lighting Tip — Light From The Back First

Words by Scott Bourne - Platypod Pro
Edited by Eryka Bagwell

Light from the back first…

This tip is aimed at toy photographers but also works for product, still life, macro and even portrait photographers.

In the setup you see above, I have my diorama set up on a table covered with black cloth. Out of camera range but behind me and to the camera’s right are two large 8x8' V-flats with the black side facing the set. There’s another just to the camera left behind the set.

Making sure you can start from zero is a good habit. The black V-Flats absorb all the stray ambient light and let me control all the light that falls on the subject.

I love to start from the back. There is another light source in play. I bounce this large light source off the ceiling or in this case an adjacent wall and the wall is large enough that it creates some spill (wraps around is not a term I like to use but that is what most people would say) around the subject.

Note the image above was just a test shot. I like to make one image after I add a light — so if I add five lights I make five test shots making sure each light is doing its job. If in my test shots I don’t see what I was looking for, I make a change and do another test shot.

Here I am only using two lights. The finished picture is below and using just these two lights, I created plenty of illumination in all the right places to tell my story.

Finished Product

If I needed more detail on the front of the characters, I could have used a small fill light or even a reflector or bounce card.


This is a very simple tip and I use it all the time. Start your lighting from the back and work your way forward. I used to do this when I made people portraits too and it worked well, every time. It also works for several other types of photography.


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