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In
lighting design In theatre Theatre or theater is a collaborative form of performing art that uses live performers, usually actor, actors or actresses, to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience in a specific place, often ...
, backlighting is the process of illuminating the subject from the back. In other words, the lighting instrument and the
viewer
viewer
face each other, with the subject in between. This creates a glowing effect on the edges of the subject, while other areas are darker. The backlight can be a natural or artificial source of light. When artificial, the back light is usually placed directly behind the subject in a 4-point lighting setup. A back light, which lights foreground elements from the rear, is not to be confused with a background light, which lights background elements (such as scenery). In the context of
lighting design In theatre Theatre or theater is a collaborative form of performing art that uses live performers, usually actor, actors or actresses, to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience in a specific place, often ...
, the back light is sometimes called hair or shoulder light, because when lighting an
actor An actor is a person who portrays a character Character(s) may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''Character'' (novel), a 1936 Dutch novel by Ferdinand Bordewijk * ''Characters'' (Theophrastus), a classical Greek set ...

actor
or an
actress An actor is a person who portrays a Character (arts), character in a performance (also actress; #The term actress, see below). The actor performs "in the flesh" in the traditional medium of the theatre or in modern media such as film, radio, a ...
, backlighting makes the edges the subject's hair glow if the hair is fuzzy. This can create an angelic
halo Halo generally refers to: * Halo (optical phenomenon) * Halo (religious iconography), a glow or ring of light around a head or person in art or a ring above one's head * Halo (franchise), ''Halo'' (franchise), a video game franchise Halo or HALO ...
type effect around the head. Filmmakers sometimes use this to show that the actor is ''good'' or ''
pure Pure may refer to: Computing * A pure function * A virtual function, pure virtual function * PureSystems, a family of computer systems introduced by IBM in 2012 * Pure Software, a company founded in 1991 by Reed Hastings to support the Purify too ...

pure
''.
Television Television, sometimes shortened to TV or telly, is a telecommunication Telecommunication is the transmission of information by various types of technologies over wire A wire is a single usually cylindrical A cylinder (from Gre ...

Television
productions often use this effect in
soap operas A soap opera or ''soap'' for short is a radio or television serial Serial may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media The presentation of works in sequential segments * Serial (literature), serialised fiction in print * Serial (publishing), p ...
, where it has become something of a
cliché A cliché ( or ) is a borrowed French word expressing an element of an artistic work, saying, or idea that has become overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effect, even to the point of being trite or irritating, especially whe ...
of the
genre Genre () is any form or type of communication in any mode (written, spoken, digital, artistic, etc.) with socially-agreed-upon conventions developed over time. In popular usage, it normally describes a Category of being, category of literature, ...

genre
. It is also sometimes called the kicker or rim light. Backlighting helps separate the subject and the background. Live
theatre Theatre or theater is a collaborative form of performing art that uses live performers, usually actor, actors or actresses, to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience in a specific place, often a stage. The p ...

theatre
lighting designs often use backlighting to give a more three-dimensional appearance to actors or set elements, when front lighting alone would give a flat, two-dimensional look. In ''
chiaroscuro Chiaroscuro ( , ; ), in art Art is a diverse range of (products of) human activities involving creative imagination to express technical proficiency, beauty, emotional power, or conceptual ideas. There is no generally agreed definitio ...

chiaroscuro
'' effects in painting, such as the candlelit paintings by
Joseph Wright of Derby Joseph Wright (3 September 1734 – 29 August 1797), styled Joseph Wright of Derby, was an English landscape and portrait painter. He has been acclaimed as "the first professional painter to express the spirit of the Industrial Revolution". Wr ...
(''illustration''), backlighting helps separate subjects in the foreground and emphasizes depth. In photography, a back light (often the sun) that is about sixteen times more intense than the
key light {{unreferenced, date=March 2008 A typical three-point setup with a shoulder or back-side lamp to create contrast between the background and center object so as to give a three-dimensional appearance The key light is the first and usually most impor ...
produces a
silhouette A silhouette ( , ) is the image of a person, animal, object or scene represented as a solid shape of a single colour, usually black, with its edges matching the outline of the subject. The interior of a silhouette is featureless, and the silhou ...

silhouette
. A
fill flash Image:Fill flash.jpg, Left: without flash. Right: with fill flash Fill flash is a photography, photographic technique used to brighten deep shadow areas, typically outdoors on sunny days, though the technique is useful any time the background is si ...

fill flash
used with a backlit subject yields more even lighting. The vertical angle of the back light can change the effect. A low angle can make the light hit the camera lens, causing
lens flare Lens flare refers to a phenomenon wherein light is scattered or flared in a lens system, often in response to a bright light, producing a sometimes undesirable artifact within the image. This happens through light scattered by the imaging mec ...

lens flare
. A high angle can make the subject's nose extend out from the mostly vertical shadow of the head, producing a potentially unwanted highlight in the middle of the face.


See also

*
Chiaroscuro Chiaroscuro ( , ; ), in art Art is a diverse range of (products of) human activities involving creative imagination to express technical proficiency, beauty, emotional power, or conceptual ideas. There is no generally agreed definitio ...

Chiaroscuro
*
Contre-jour Contre-jour ( French for "against daylight Daylight is the combination of all direct and indirect sunlight during the daytime. This includes direct sunlight, diffuse sky radiation, and (often) both of these reflected by Earth and terrestrial ob ...

Contre-jour
{{Artificial light sources Stage lighting Photographic techniques