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How to Take Silhouettes


Photographers are story tellers, from the photojournalist documenting an event to the fashion photographer conveying a targeted message. Wedding and Engagement photographers are telling stories of love and romance. And while much of this story telling is in the expressions and the interaction of a couple as captured by the photographer, love can also be portrayed using other creative techniques such as shadows and silhouettes.

Silhouettes appear as long as your background is significantly brighter than the light illuminating your subjects. Though this seems obvious, the application of the concept can be difficult. First off, make sure you’re exposing properly for the background and not the subjects. If you expose for the subjects, your backgrounds will likely blow out to white. Secondly, expand your creativity and apply this concept to any kind of light, artificial and natural, indoors and outdoors. Lastly, mind your compositions and poses. With compositions, keep the main subjects clear of other objects in the scene; and with poses, keep in mind that the outline of a face or body can sometimes highlight unflattering features.

When used correctly, utilizing silhouettes and shadows in wedding and engagement photography is a great way to add a different dimension to a photo session. They can expand your creativity, as you look beyond the basic poses and the common lighting situations. They can also tell a subtle, hidden story, with much of the detail beyond the outlines of the bodies concealed in black. Here are five ways to use shadows and silhouettes in your wedding and engagement photography.

1) Outdoor – Sunset Behind the Couple
Probably the most common use of the silhouette is the sunset. While it’s very common, and perhaps even overused, it can still be captivating and powerful with enough color and interest in the sky and a strong composition.

Here are a couple of examples:

2) Outdoor – Bright Background with the Couple in the Dark
With your couple in the shade or in the dark in front of a bright background, the full color of the background comes through in the image, your subjects stay concealed in black, and a different portrayal of the moment is created.

Here are two examples:

3) Outdoor or Indoor – Off-camera Flash Behind the Couple

With the absence of sufficient natural light, you can still create your silhouettes with the use of off camera flash. With a strobe placed behind your subjects, the same concept of the light behind the couple being significantly stronger than the light on the couple is created.

Here are two examples:

4) Outdoor – Shadows on Walls

Shadows appear on walls during the day as long as there is some direction from your sunlight. This gives you creative options to find unique textures, backgrounds, and compositions for your shadow couple shots.

Here are two examples:

5) Indoor – The Couple in Front of a Bright Window

Window light is commonly used in portrait photography, as it creates soft, even light. It’s most common that photographers shoot in the same direction of the light. However, if you shoot against the light and expose properly for the background, you get a silhouette effect which, if used in conjunction with a strong composition, can lead to an interesting photograph.

Here are two examples:

We hope you picked up a few things here and there from this article, and of course, we welcome your comments below.

About the author: Christopher Lin is a photographer in Los Angeles, California and an editor for SLR Lounge, Photography Tutorials and the marketing manager for UNDFIND, Designer Photography Bags.

[via Photography Tips]

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