5 Silhouette Photography Tips and Techniques
Silhouette Photography is all about capturing a dark subject against a bright background. The subject is placed in such a way that it seems to be nothing more than a dark shadow. Most often the Silhouettes are taken against the light of the sun or sometimes a bright light source is taken as a background while some silhouettes are also captured underwater. The subject is blacked out and revealed by an outline only. Silhouette Photography is a wonderful technique to depict mystery/emotion, in a simple yet striking manner. The thing about this kind of photography is that a Silhouette doesn’t reveal a clear picture of everything but leaves a part of the image to the viewer’s imagination to wonder about. There are a lot of new photographers who want to know how to capture one.
Here are some of the techniques that can help them getting the magical thing in their silhouettes. In our tutorial we have summed up some techniques that are adapted whilst taking great silhouettes.
Setting up your Subject:
The first and the basic thing you need to keep in mind is to set the subject (that is to be blacked out) in front of the bright light. Great silhouettes are captured when there is only a single source of the light against which the subject is placed. The bright light source should be covered by the subject so as to maintain the exposure ratio. Chose the subject that is well distinguishable so as it stands clear, crisp and bold against the light than that of the small and the insignificant ones. If your subject is a person, you can try distinguishing its facial features (nose, lips, eyes, hands) from the background rather than outlining only a few of them. This will make your silhouette look more interesting. You can also try separating the elements of the subject rather than keeping them aligned against the light as this will merge them into one. By doing this your silhouette will be more conveying.
Lighting in a Silhouette Photography
When it comes to lighting, you will need to ensure that the flash of your camera is turned off. Try correcting the lighting of the background instead of the subject. The subject is to be darkened without ruining the background. If there is too much light, the light will fall on your object and make it visible . If there is not enough light, your background will become gray and this will ruin your silhouette. The best way to deal with this is to ensure that your background is lighter than your subject.
Since a total silhouette is a crisp and a powerful shot, you can also consider a partial silhouette wherein a little detail of the subject is touched with the light. This makes the silhouettes look comparatively three dimensional and real.
Lock the exposure
Once you have set the subject in its exact position and dealt with the lighting factor, the next step is to frame the exact picture and lock the exposure according to the background and not the subject. You can do this by pointing the camera metering towards the bright part of the picture and take the exposure reading by pressing the shutter button half way down (don’t let go). By doing this you trick your camera to think that the brighter part of the picture lies in the mid tone of it. By doing this the objects darker than the brighter part are exposed as dark shadows. Meanwhile keep in mind that the shutter reading should be metered away from the bright light of the sun or the light source (in case the bright light source is not covered by the subject) , so as to get the appropriate exposure. The subject thereby gets under-exposed and dark or even completely black. Some digital cameras have ’spot’ or ‘centered’ metering modes that you can switch on which helps setting the metering on the central spot of your frame rather than multiple spots. By this you can guide your camera to select the basis for the exposure for the whole silhouette. There are certain other manual techniques. Make sure that there is no light source between you and your subject. This won’t let you set the appropriate exposure.
Focus on your subject
Focus on the subject rather than the background. This will ensure that the subject is more crispier instead of blurry and gives a good perspective to the silhouette. Get closer to the subject This will allow you to easily place the strongest light source behind the subject and allow you to change your shooting angles to get a variety of images. If both of you and the subject are immovable then try zooming on the picture.
Recommendations from Professional Silhouette Photographers
Most photographers consider certain time for shooting and the positioning of the sun for getting the best outcome. Most photographers prefer the time around sunset because the sun causes the sky to be brighter than everything else and for getting greater contrast. Some photographers recommend to set narrow aperture (high f/stop) so as to capture the whole scene in focus. Use the aperture manual mode on your camera so that you can control what the aperture will be and then the camera automatically selects the right shutter speed necessary for the photo as well. It is also recommended to use a lens hood so as to tackle lens flares that wont let you frame the scene you exactly want.