By : Nikon School Blog | 10 Oct, 2017 |
Silhouettes are difficult to spell, but fairly easy to shoot and they usually make interesting images. For many people learning photography, silhouettes are often shot unintentionally while shooting subjects with a strong backlight, like trying to shoot someone's portrait against a bright sunlit sky. However, shooting silhouettes intentionally can be both fun and aesthetically gratifying, if the technique and subject selection is appropriate.
Technically, it's quite simple. You need to shoot subjects that have a strong light source behind them. The trick is to let the camera (or yourself) expose for the main light and not the silhouette subjects.
Time and light
Silhouettes can be shot anytime. However, just as in any kind of photography, they too will turn up better in golden light situations, ie, early morning, or late afternoon. Too much harsh light in the background can often have not so pleasing results. Dawn and dusk are also good times, with colourful skies as background.
While shooting silhouettes, don't just think of sunlight. Any light source can give the same results. Street lights, indoor lights, flashes, any light source would do.
In case of a wide frame with small backlit subjects, this won't be much of a problem, as the camera will generally meter the source light in matrix metering mode. In case of the silhouetted subject filling up the frame, heavily under expose with exposure compensation or use spot metering to meter the background.
Subject and composition
Almost anything looks interesting when shot as a silhouette. You can shoot people, animals, vehicles, everyday articles, almost anything that you can think of. Just remember, silhouettes don't show details. So, the form of the subject and its placement in the frame is more important for the composition. Look for interesting shapes of things and intriguing positions of people while shooting them as silhouettes.
Any mode is good as long as you get the exposure correct. In constant light, it's useful to go Manual and set the exposure once. This way you won't have to use compensation or rely on the camera meter. On other modes, using the right metering mode or the right amount of compensation is the key to getting the right exposure.
Select wide frames
Expose for the backlight
Position the subject or the camera so that the form of the subject is shown fully
Do not expose for the silhouette subject. Expose the background correctly.
Do not use spot or centre-weighted metering on the silhouette subject.
Do not fill the frame with the subject. Keep good amount of space in the background to show the silhouette properly.