I figured it might be fun to break down an image for you, looking at which settings I used and why, compositional choices, and even editing. If you are starting out, you may find find it helpful, or at least just a little bit interesting.......or then again, maybe not :)
I didn't really know which type of image to pick, so I just plumped for this one to start - I'll maybe do more in the future with different image types if there's interest in that? Anyway, here goes...
This image was taken with the Canon 5D Mark III and the 135mm lens. Although I love working with a longer focal length, I find I can only really use it with older children or adults, as with younger children I need to be closer to them for safety unless someone else is with me. Using a longer focal length helps give you that soft background, especially when used at a lower aperture - here I used F2.2 . I wanted the image to look peaceful, and a blurred background helps with that dreamy feel, which is why I chose to use both that lens and that aperture. A shutter speed of 1/400 is high enough for a stationary subject, and because there is a lot of light going around, I can use an ISO setting of 100 - if I had been photographing a child, I would have bumped up my ISO to get my shutter speed higher.
Although this image was taken a couple of hours before the golden hour, the sun was still low enough in the sky that it wasn't lighting my subject directly from above - you can see that the light is hitting from an angle of around 45 degrees from slightly above and behind him on camera right (see how it hits the top back of his head?) In an ideal world I would wait until the golden hour for these types of images, but where I live that can be very late in the evening during summer (around 10pm) which isn't usually ideal for me, and which is why you won't see many dreamy backlit images on the blog! So I try to make it work a little earlier, and know I need to work on them a bit in processing to add in that golden hour glow.
I knew I wanted a lot of negative space in this image to add to the dreamy quiet feel, so I placed my subject on camera right, leaving space for his gaze on the left. In camera, I used the Golden Ratio (similar to the Rule of Thirds) and placed my subject in the last intersection to maximise the negative space, and have his gaze follow along the top horizontal line - this was approximate in camera, and cropped to suit in editing.
I wanted a warm golden look to the image, so I played around with the tint and temperature sliders to add in a more warmth (adding yellow and magenta) in ACR, and made slight adjustments to exposure. The first thing I did in Photoshop was to clone in a background (and clone out that lamp post) as the light source behind is still quite bright, the sky has blown out and is not what I want in the image. From there, I added even more warmth by adding some red, yellow and a little magenta using Color Balance. I also added contrast to add a little more punch, deepening the blacks, and a saturation layer to boost up the colours. Finally I added a solid colour layer in a soft cream to add a very light haze over the top, and a warm vignette around the edges, and then cropped in a little, but keeping the same ratio. Here's a before and after:
That's it! I hope that you have found it helpful to see everything laid out in one place - if you did, let me know in the comments and I can do more in the future!