January 2013
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How to shoot great silhouettes – 5 Tips – Part 1

Tip 1046 (What is a silhouette): You might have heard of the term silhouette being used in photography terms once in a while. A silhouette is actually a shot where a subject or an object or a person is shot with the light behind them. This makes the subject of the photo appears darker than the background (which appears lit). If such a photo is of a person, the person typically is not lit up and can be difficult to identify, with the outline being visible (the same goes if the subject is a tree or a building or some other structure). Shot well, a silhouette can look amazing if the contrast looks great; these photos convey a great sense of drama, and at the same time, you can end up with a very simple shot (the shot being simple does not mean that it is easy to do; after all, they say that you can spend hours and hours to get a perfect shot that looks very natural).

Tip 1047 (Background should be bright): As the above point illustrates, it is necessary that the background be well lit. In fact, this would be rule number one of trying to shoot a silhouette, and the most common background that is used for this purpose is that of using the sky (and that too, not the night sky). This can even be the sky at sunrise or sunset, although one needs to be careful that you are taking such that the light source in the sky is the background. There are people who manage to take silhouettes using the light of lamps or flames, but these are more difficult.

Tip 1048 (The object being much more darker than the background): For such photos, it is difficult to get the foreground object being dark unless the background is many times (or in terms of photography, many stops) brighter than the objects in the foreground. Typically, one needs to set the exposure on the background, and this ensures that the objects in the foreground are dark. The objects in the foreground need to be set as under-exposed, and this might need some adjustments of the aperture and shutter speed (and if necessary, the ISO).

Tip 1049 (No light shining on the objects in the foreground): When you are trying to take such shots, you need to be sure that there is no light that is exposing the objects in the foreground, else you will not have these objects being dark with only the edges being highlighted. For example, if you are trying to take a shot of people at sunset in the beach, there should not be any lamp next to these people).

Tip 1050 (Controlling motion of people as desired): Since in many cases, such silhouettes are taken in the evening, having motion in such photos can make it different. When there are overall low light levels in such photos, any motion in such photos can be jarring and spoil the photo. If you see some of those great photos where there is some action of people on the beach (such as people jumping up and being shot as a silhouette), then most of those are taken in broad daylight where the shutter speed can be increased; shots with low overall light levels normally have still objects.

Some instructional books from Amazon:

The Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Taking Photos Like a Pro Learning to Craft Light with Canon Speedlites The Digital Photography Book, Part 4

Videos from Youtube:

How to make and shoot silhouettes photos

Taking A Sunset Silhouette Photo

Shooting a silhouette

Read the next part of Shooting great silhouettes (Part 2)

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