I just adore silhouette imagery – the mystery and moodiness of a silhouette is pretty captivating.
The subject is intriguing and evokes wonderful storytelling within an image, with it’s unique simplicity.
On occasion I have ended up with an awesome silhouette image as a lucky accident, most likely because I had exposed for the sky rather than the subject – I can be quite taken by a beautiful sunset 🙂 – therefore the subject (whom I may or may not have been photographing 🙂 ) is almost completely underexposed.
Top Tips for creating awesome Silhouette images:
Instead of lighting the front of your subject, you need light shining from the background rather than from the foreground. You want to light the back of your subject rather than the front. The perfect light for this is placing your subject in front of a sunset or sunrise – but really any bright light will be able to do the trick, bright window light also works beautifully. Turn your flash OFF!
Choose a strong subject
You can shoot almost any subject as a silhouette – it doesn’t have to be people! However, it must be a strong and recognisable shape, so to create interest and dimension.
Set your camera to manual
Digital cameras are clever little beasts, set in auto mode they have the ability to automatically meter your shot, and are pretty good at sensing how to expose a photograph so that everything is well lit. The trouble here is that because when set in auto digital cameras are such smarty pants ( 🙂 ) they will compensate the low light in the foreground and light up your subject instead of underexposing.
So, in order to create silhouette images so you have to be smarter and trick it!
Expose for the bright light source, so the sky or window light, and under expose your subject.
Focus on your subject
Using your manual focus points within your camera, lock your focus point on your subject/s in order to create a stronger, crisp silhouette.
Lowering your aperture (f/1.8 or lower) will create a strong focal point for your subject, making the silhouette stand out strongly against the light source, and throwing the light source and background out creating a hazy lighting effect. In which case you will need to compensate this by increasing your exposure time/shutter speed. However, you can create a different feel to your shot by setting a smaller aperture – a higher f/ number, therefore creating a sharper, stronger background against your silhouette.
The settings for the image below are; Aperture f/1.8 , Shutter Speed 1/800, ISO 200
Get out there and play
Experiment with different light sources and subjects.
Try different settings and see what you can create!
Using ACR, Photoshop or Light Room to increase the ‘black’s’ in your image and adjusting your exposure can also help create really striking imagery.
Go forth and create…… 😉
Be sure to post your images to The Dark Room Flickr group and look out for the monthly round-up to see if your silhouette makes the featured blog post.