Easy Photo Tips: How to Photograph Silhouettes.

April 16, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

 

Photographing Silhouettes is all about shapes. When the detail, features or even colour of your subject is not the most important, but your photo is about the outline of your subject against a bright background. Usually the only colour in your photo will be from the background.

Silhouettes stand out because they are simple and the dark shapes of your subject leave the viewer with a sense of mystery.

 

Newcastle, England

In Short

Taking a silhouette photo is very simple and easy. Place your subject in front of a bright background and expose your photo for that bright background, compose your photo and shoot. This can easily be done, even with a compact camera that does not have manual functions.

 

Subject

When taking a silhouette photo, a strong subject with a recognizable shape is very important. The subjects distinctive shape can make or brake your photo. Remember composition (tips on composition). After you have adjusted your exposure for the background, frame your subject to make the composition work.

Top of the World, South Africa

The photo above was taken with the method described below. First I exposed for the bright sun in the background, only then I composed the photo and took the shot. The Subject can also be clearly seen as a climber.

 

Silhouettes with a compact camera

With most compact cameras, you can lock the focus and exposure by pressing the shutter button half-way down. Simply point your camera towards the brightest area of the photo you want to take with your subject out of the frame. Press the shutter half-way down, frame you subject and take your shot. If your camera flash pops up, switch it off and retry. That’s your silhouette done. Most of it at least. When you review your photo, it might not look the way you wanted. Remember, you still have post production to do. Maybe a nice Black & White or if your background had beautiful colours, boost the colours and contrast.

Paying in the surf, Egypt

Instead of Black & White, I made this photo a warm sunset colour.

 

Silhouettes with a manual camera

This is just as easy as described above, but you have more control. In manual mode, choose your aperture (tips on aperture). As above, point your camera towards the brightest area, then change the shutter speed until the camera meter shows the correct exposure (0). Or you can choose to have it under or over exposed. Now frame your subject, focus and shoot.

Bedouin, Jordan

In this photo I chose to show some detail of the Bedouin against the bright rock in the background.

 

Photographing a silhouette is easy if the light conditions are in your favour, and now hopefully you also understand how to take one.


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