Tech Tips Home
The Best Tech Tips And Daily Deals
Newsletter On The Internet!

Shop online 24hrs a day or call us Mon-Fri
8:30AM-4:30PM EST - 1-800-915-2088
WorldStart Tech Tip And Store Search
Email: Password: Login Remember Me

Like what you see here? Subscribe to the Tech Tips newsletter!   Email: Subscribe

Silhouette Photography

Friday, September 4th, 2009 by | Filed Under: Digital Photography
 
Loading...


While a flash is usually an important part of taking a picture and capturing the full extent of your subject, more light on the subject isn’t always desired. A silhouette projects the outline of an entirely over-exposed (and as a result, black) subject. Such a photograph will easily jump out in any collection because of the mystery its simplicity invokes. The viewer is left to imagine the silhouetted subject and the story behind the photograph. What follows is basic description of how to photograph silhouettes. After reading this, you can skim through the many other technical descriptions available on the web, confident that you know the essential principles. Remember first and foremost, that you want your camera to think that your focus is on the brightest part of your composition.

1. Think twice about the subject

image

While any subject can be a silhouette, keep in mind that the shape will be blacked out and therefore only appear in two-dimensions. As a result, something with a recognizable shape may be preferable to the viewer if they aren’t familiar with the subject of the silhouette. On the other hand, an unusual image could make for a great picture too! Either way, consider how you want the viewer to consider the picture despite—or even because—of the lack of color, texture and tone of the subject.

2. Placement of the subject(s)

image

While you certainly can silhouette multiple shapes or objects in one composition, the placement of these subjects becomes critical. If a person is leaning on a tree or even standing next to a tree, for example, the viewer will most likely not be able to differentiate the two subjects (never mind identify them) and instead see an unrecognizable blob. Additionally, when silhouetting people, you should profile them to showcase more of their features which in turn will make them more recognizable than if you had photographed them straight on.

3. Plenty of light, but no flash

image

If in automatic mode, your camera will want to use its flash to illuminate the composition. In other circumstances, you would want your camera to have this reaction to the lighting, but a flash will surely ruin a silhouette. Unlike a normal photograph, where light should be focused on the front of your subject, a silhouette requires that the back of the subject is lit up more than the front. For this reason, a flash—which would illuminate the front of your subject—can’t be used with silhouettes. In the best scenario, your subject would be standing in front of a sunset or sunrise and there would be more light in the background than the foreground. A blue sky without clouds would be a great background as well—really anywhere where the light source is behind the subject (the subject could even be in front of a lamp). This reasoning, of course, is counter-intuitive to the principles of normal photography, but then again we’re not talking about normal photography: we’re talking about silhouettes!

4. Auto Mode

image

Your camera is pretty smart, but I think you can be smarter. Your camera will want to take a flash because the automatic metering that most modern digital cameras have will want to illuminate your subject instead of underexposing it (which is essential for a silhouette). So here’s where the trick comes in. Most cameras in auto mode compute the exposure level (as well as focus) when you push the shutter, half way down. As a result, if you press the shutter halfway down when your camera is directed at the brightest part of your composition, your camera will adjust the exposure of the rest of the photograph based on the false assumption that the brightest part is the mid tone. Consequently, any part of the image darker than the bright light (i.e. your subject) will be exposed as a dark shadow. Be careful not to lift your finger from the shutter or finish taking the shot until you have re-adjusted yourself in front of the composition. Additionally, some digital cameras have ’spot’ or ‘centered’ metering modes which helps to accurately expose the silhouette by setting the metering on one spot in your composition rather than multiple spots. In reality, you aren’t tricking your camera, but rather telling it how you want the exposure of the photograph to be scaled.

5. Manual Mode

image

If you aren’t getting the results you want from automatic mode and your camera has the option, try manual exposure of exposure compensation. A digital camera allows you to play around with as many different features as you want and if you don’t like the photo, simply delete it and keep clicking away. If you’re new to manual mode, start off with the suggested shutter speed and aperture for automatic mode. To make your subject darker, decrease the shutter speed slightly. Using this ‘bracketing’ technique will let you see the slightest changes in your photographs and choose the best one.

6. Focusing

image

You probably want the silhouetted subject to be the most in focus in the frame you‘ve composed. Unfortunately, this can prove tricky if you are trying to trick your camera as was suggested earlier. As was described, if you push the shutter half way down in front of the brightest part of your composition so that the camera registers that light as the mid tone, your camera will also focus on that part of the composition. As a result, if you do want your silhouetted subject in focus, you might try manual focusing and focus your camera before you meter the photo. You can also adjust the aperture to maximize your depth of field. A small aperture (large number) will increase the depth of the field, creating both a crisper foreground and background in your photo.

7. Partial silhouette

image

While many of these tips are geared towards capturing complete silhouettes, don’t be afraid to try a partial silhouette. Instead of having a black subject, some of your subject’s features will be exposed in a partial silhouette, making for a more three-dimensional and real image.

~Zahid Javali

Leave a Reply


Like these tips? Get them for FREE in your email!

WorldStart's Tech Tips Newsletter

  • Tech Tips Daily - Become a tech pro! Get the very best tech and computer help sent directly to your email every weekday!

  • Tech Tips Weekly - If you don't want our Tech Tips newsletter every day, then sign up for this weekly newsletter to get the best information of the week. Sent on Fridays.

Other Newsletters

  • WorldStart's Daily Deals - Every week, we send out great deals in our Daily Deals newsletter. Many of these deals are exclusively for our Daily Deals newsletter subscribers and can't be found with our regular specials.

  • Just For Grins - Each issue includes a couple clean jokes, some funny quotes, and a hilarious reader's story. Newsletter is sent five days a week.


Enter Email Address:

Subscribe

Your e-mail address is safe with us!
We only use it to send you the newsletters you request. It is NEVER disclosed to a third party for any reason, ever! Plus, if you decided you don't like our newsletters (don't worry, you'll love them), unsubscribing is fast and easy.

Free Newsletter Signup



Tech Tips Daily

Become a tech pro! Get the very best tech and computer help sent directly to your email every weekday!

Tech Tips Weekly

The week's best in tech and computer help. Get your issue sent to your email every Friday!

WorldStart's Daily Deals

The very best deals on the Internet! Get a new set of incredible sales every day of the week!

Just For Grins

Clean jokes, funny quotes, and hilarious comics. Sent 5 times a week straight to your email.


Subscribe


Love Worldstart? Refer A Friend!

WorldStart's Premium Membership

Tip Archive


Categories:
Archives: