January 2013
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How to shoot great silhouettes – 5 Tips – Part 3

Read the previous part of this series (How to Shoot Great Silhouettes – Part 2)

Tip 1056 (Not everybody likes silhouettes): In a previous post, I had mentioned about how the focus of a silhouette is to keep it simple, it is the magic of the dark profile of subject(s) against a brighter background that looks great. So you shot an excellent photo and thought it is worthy to show to people, do not get disheartened if you do not get the expected amount of praise from some people. Some people consider silhouettes to be very simple and cannot understand why you would be going ga-ga over a shot that you considered excellent. Just move on.

Tip 1057 (Be aware that details will be lost): One of the biggest problems between visualizing a shot and the final outcome in a silhouette is the lack of detail. If you have got a great shot in your head and then find that the actual silhouette is not conveying the idea you had, the most common reason is because you had visualized more details than a silhouette can support. For example, if you get any kind of physical contact between 2 people (consider a kiss), then the faces will be blended together since very few details other than the outline of the subject will be visible. So if you want a ‘Kiss’ to be clear through the silhouette, get the subjects to pose with the maximum distance between their bodies and their faces and the lips only just about touching; a deep kiss will just seem like 2 mashed heads sticking to each other 🙂 (sad but true).

Tip 1058 (Focusing is important): For such an image, getting a sharp focus on the subjects can make a photo seem much better. If you are trying to create a silhouette where you have not managed to get the subjects in focus, chances are that the outline of the subjects that you are trying to get seem like a blurred outline. If you are using a DSLR, then using manual focus might be a better option, and in a point and shoot, make sure that you have used the half-click to get the camera to accurately focus on the subjects in order to get the photo. (Warning: This can be a bit challenging since the half-click could also set the exposure to the subjects, not the background, so this might take some iterations; or if there is a possibility of manually setting the shutter and aperture controls, then go ahead and use the settings that you have used for the brighter background).

Tip 1059 (May be necessary to use software): Typically, we try to get the best shot possible so that there is no need to do post-processing on the computer, but life does not always work out the way we like, and hence it may be required to use software for the same purpose to remove some traces of color or some details from the subjects in order to get a better silhouette. Tools such as Photoshop, Photoshop Elements or Lightroom let you manipulate the picture to do the kind of editing that you need (you would need to open the picture in the tool, and then use the Burn Brush to make the subject darker and also remove details).

Tip 1060 (Practice at the beach): Getting a great (not good, great) silhouette means that you need to know about the lighting, the way that the lighting in the background contrasts with your main subjects, so this will get better as you practice. And what better place to practice than the beach (assuming you are in a place that is close by to a beach, but even if you are at a river-front, the same principle applies). Near sunrise or sunset, the background light ensures that the subjects (and you will find plenty of people at beaches) come out pretty nicely in a silhouette, with almost not details except for an outline visible.

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 post in this series (Shooting great silhouettes – Part 4)

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