XDrive Photo Lesson 17 – Rim Light

This is my submission for XDrive Photo Lesson 17 – Rim Light.

I was going to say this was the most difficult lesson for me. Then I remember feeling the same way with a couple of previous lessons. I think the difference is that in previous lessons, after I studied the subject, the real shooting time was a half day at the most. But this time it took 3 days and several tries on each day. (So glad we have two weeks to work on this!)

Again, After reading Raj’s lesson, I read more articles and watched some videos of the subject. Most of them, if not all, said rim light effect is EASY to achieve even for the beginners. Eliminating the guy who had fancy lighting equipment, and the guy who did outstanding post processing work, there were still a couple doable ones — that was what I thought.

Well, I carefully followed their steps, but my photos didn’t look like theirs at all. So, for 3 days, I tried to move the light forward and backward, left and right, turn the light toward the front and back, up and down… I am sure you get the picture.

Anyway, here is the first photo.

I took several photos of this glass. Like I said, it didn’t look as good as the one showed in the article. I was ready to give up, but I thought I should at least check it out in PS. It turned out that all I had to do was to make the black darker. Wow. The result surprised me. In a good way, I mean.

I took a photo of a wine bottle, which I would not post it here. I don’t understand why we have to work so hard to get our subject in focus, and yet dusts always have their own way to steal the spotlight.

Next is… well, another bottle with natural light. It does have the rim light, I think. I hope, anyway.

Then, I thought of the fireplace. It would be a good background, wouldn’t it? Let me tell you, it was very difficult to ask those bears to sit still. Not to mention the flashlight kept falling off from the box…

Finally… I hate selfies… but DIY is always easier. So, the last photo is a photo of me. I took this photo with a timer set with 2 seconds delay, so I could have enough time to run to the spot. This, again, took many tries, moving the light here and there… thinking… moving lights again… After taking so many selfies, I think I know exactly where each wrinkle is!

Thanks to Raj for another wonderful lesson. I also want to mention that my friend Amy at The World Is A Book… has an excellent post for this lesson. You may like to take a look. 😉

Thanks for visiting my blog.


About Helen C

A retired computer programmer who loves writing and photographing, and has managed to publish a YA novel "Jin-Ling’s Two Left".
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50 Responses to XDrive Photo Lesson 17 – Rim Light

  1. Raj says:

    Hey Helen, great post once again!

    Pic 1: Just perfect execution of the project! Yes, that’s the classic rim lit photo. Yes, the post-processing is to be employed to get rid of unwanted light spots and to create darker black etc. Yes as you said the concept is very simple but this is where you try to control the light flow. Pro photographers daily life involves such decisions for every photo they take. Yes, pic 2 also fulfils the rim lit photograph.

    Pic 3: Great to see those two bears warmth of the fireplace. You do take good care of them. Nice work on the setup Helen. However, I don’t see the sharpness on the subject. Here the background is not important and even that could be blurred. I think shot missed the focus somehow. Just imagine a shot where you took this shot directly behind the bears. But this pic is a rim lit.

    Pic 4: Great self-shot Helen. Nice work there. As I was checking the photo, I wanted to write, “you look like praying”… but then I saw the folded hands! 😀 That means, people might miss the joined hands, so, I would recommend a rim light even on your hands and the left shoulder. That would tell the story aloud. But it’s a great picture.

    The important thing to note form this exercise is, to watch for light direction, not just for rim light effect, but for any picture. Lighting is the key, try to use the ambient light as much as possible. The previous example also shows the importance of backlighting. Most of the times we ruin the picture because we ignored the light.

    This critique is part of XDrive’s photography learning sessions. Thanks a lot for being here and giving us a great set of examples.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Helen C says:

      Thank you so much, Raj. I appreciate your critique. Your critique, to me, is like second part of the lesson. I always learn a lot from it.

      Pic 1 – what you say here really makes sense. I have to admit that I’ve never paid this much attention to light flow like I did this week. 😉 It’s quite interesting. And the knowledge is valuable! (You summarize it well!!!)

      Pic 3 — I didn’t expect to see the reflection of the bears. When I saw it, I got excited. I was trying to focus on the reflection, and the reflection is not easy to focus 😉 I will try again, but I have a feeling that a white bear is not easy to focus anyway –because lack of contrast?

      Pic 4 – the picture looks different in medium size (smaller size). It is darker. If you click it, you will see more light. That was what I saw on my PC. This brings up another question: why do they look so different?

      You are absolutely right that the light is important. I think after this lesson, I will always remember that. Thank you!

      Have a great day.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Raj says:

        Hey Helen,
        Pic3: See this where we go wrong, if our intention is to catch the backlight, we should make sure that is captured. If the reflection is the objective then it’s a different picture altogether. As the story changes here, and in that case my comment also changes… I would shoot in landscape mode so that the backside of heads of bears and a little bit of shoulder and the reflective faces should be in the frame along with the fire so that your intention is clearly conveyed to the viewer. That would be an interesting picture because it would look like bears trapped inside the fire!. But the important thing to note is, avoid mixing of things. (Probably this calls for another topic for a session) 

        Pic 4: I agree with you, full size looks better. That’s why professional photographers do post-processing based on the output size. Specifically, in the delicate light settings, it makes big difference.
        🙂 Now you sleep.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Helen C says:

          I disagree; I don’t think there was anything that went wrong with your previous comment for Pic 3. I was planning to take a photo with rim light, but I was distracted by the reflection (shame on me), which I shouldn’t. So your previous comment is quite valid. But the new comment gives me something extra to think about, which is appreciated too.
          I am thinking… as a viewer, or a teacher, do you need to consider my intention at all? I don’t think so, because other viewers won’t. I once asked my writing teacher what should I do if reader interpret my story different from what I had in my mind. He told me my job is writing and I should leave the rest to readers. 😉
          I never thought the size of a photo would make the photo look so much different. Now I know. Do post processing based on the output size — I learned another thing. Thanks.
          Good night.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Raj says:

            Interesting thought Helen. Yes, for the most part, what you said is right, one does not have to worry about what a viewer thinks about the picture. But, since our intention as a photographer is to convey the story to our viewer and get a credit for what we envisioned. So its very important that we make sure user sees what we are trying to show them. That’s what I meant. In the pic 3, that’s what can happen, the moment you give focus on reflection, that becomes your story. I am not saying that story is bad, in fact, its the better story than showing the ‘rim light’. I am glad that you picked it on the fly and made that adjustment.
            Good morning! 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

          • Helen C says:

            Forgot to say that after playing with light for seemingly forever, I did manage to get an outline (contour) of me. FUN! 😉


        • Helen C says:

          Thanks, Raj. 😉
          Have a great day.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: XDrive Photography Learning – 17 – Rim-Light. – XDrive

  3. loisajay says:

    Helen–you are the best kind of student. You really study and do research. These photos are wonderful. I could not stop looking at the first photo. Raj says perfect. Whew, I thought that, too. Gorgeous shot. And the selfie–I don’t know how to use my timer. But then I don’t have a tripod. I am the student who really needs to do her homework…. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Helen C says:

      Good morning, Lois. Thank you, again, for your kind comment. In a way, I am lucky. My husband used to be crazy about photographing; he bought most of the equipment including tripod, lighting device… I just use them 😉
      If being a student can be a profession, I want to be a professional student 😉 Learning makes me happy. Wish you live closer, so we can have fun together!
      Have a great day.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. shutterbug says:

    These are lovely, Helen! I am curious about your lighting source, do you use an off camera flash?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Helen C says:

      Thanks, Kelly. We have two LED lights (constant light), and two strobe lights (Nikon SB 600 and 800). I usually start with the LED lights because it’s easier to work with constant light. If that doesn’t work, I will switch to strobe lights. The glass photo was the first one I shot. I don’t remember which light I was using. My guess is LED. There was a piece of black board behind the glass to create the rim light. The Cognac was place by the window. No extra light needed. Again, I placed a black board behind the bottle. The bear photo was using two regular flash lights — the one you use around the house when electricity is out. The selfie was using strobe light — I couldn’t make it work with LED lights.
      Light devices are not cheap. My husband used to be crazy about photographing (not as much now); that’s why we have bought all these. Otherwise, at my current level, I probably would wait a couple more years. 😉
      I think if you use Cannon camera, you have to buy Cannon light device… (My guess.)
      Hope I’ve answered your question. Have a wonderful day.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Dymoon says:

    very interesting, and I personally liked the self portrait one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Helen C says:

      Thank you, Doda. I, actually, like the light (or lack of it) a lot (selfie). I took one for my husband and I loved it, too (not sure he would like me post it here ;-). The only problem is the light is harsh, so the skin doesn’t look as smooth. And wrinkles show more 😉 I don’t have a softbox in the right shape. Otherwise that would be a good thing for me to try.
      Have a wonderful day.


  6. Amy says:

    I’m in awe! 3 days for this one, I can only imagine the tedious work and effort.
    How impressive, Helen. Great use for your photo studio.
    Thanks for the link. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Cee Neuner says:

    Stunning photos Helen. I think this is the best I’ve ever seen from you. 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  8. prior.. says:

    Oh helen- loved feeling how this unfolded for you – and the selfie was a nice touch – 🙂
    going to check out amy’s linkee post now…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Helen C says:

      Thanks, Yvette. This was the first time I play with speed light. Now I understand why pro usually has a couple of assistants.;-)
      Are you getting 2018 water color calendar? I bought one for my sister, but I think I will skip a year since I still have a lot to do for 2017 ;-(
      Good night.

      Liked by 1 person

      • prior.. says:

        Hi – I think I might actually get one this year – I did not get to do much art this year at all – not personal stuff – which is not all bad because like you…. I like custom mini adventures and sometimes a bit of change (am I right that you like these?)
        but after reading your comment I am now thinking of the calendar


  9. prior.. says:

    and the photos are beautiful

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Lady Oscar says:

    beautiful thinker!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Rupali says:

    OMG, you are such a great learner Helen. Excellent post. I have to wait for next three weeks before I even think about doing my lessons.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Lignum Draco says:

    Lovely shots Helen, particularly the first. Contrast is particularly important in achieving a smashing shot, and darkening the blacks in photo was the key, as you found out.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. restlessjo says:

    Merry Christmas, Helen! 🙂 🙂 Wishing you health and happiness in 2018.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Pingback: XDrive Photography Learning – 17 – Rim-Light. – shutterbugdiary

  15. DG MARYOGA says:

    Most exquisite work dear Helen!All your photos are wonderfully processed and clearly show your advanced photographic skills.Fascinated with the first photo & your superb selfie.Wishing you & your loved ones a Merry Christmas & a Prosperous New Year filled with Love,Peace,Happiness & Health 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  16. DG MARYOGA says:

    A big thank you for your understanding dear Helen.Happy Valentine’s Day ❤ xxx

    Liked by 1 person

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