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Silhouette Photography Tips and Tutorial

Normally every time you take a photo, you want the subject to be as crisp and clear as possible. However, today, we will talk about a technique that hides almost everything from the viewer, leaving it all to the imagination and delivers a stunning effect at the same time.

“Girl and Sunset” captured by Arman Zhenikeyev (Click Image to See More From Arman Zhenikeyev)

Silhouettes are used by artists and professionals to convey drama, emotion in a simple yet striking manner and we are going to give you a quick run down on how you can create magical silhouettes with your camera.

1) Look at your sources of light

Typically, when you take a photo, there are two sources of light, the natural ambient light and the light of your flash.

The first thing you need to do to get a silhouette is force the flash of your camera off. That way, you will heighten the contrast of the subject and ensure that the subject comes out as dark as possible.

The second thing to do is to identify the sources of ambient light. Silhouettes come out best when there is only one source of light ( eg: sunlight ) against which you can place your subject. If there are multiple sources of lights, try to shut down some of them or choose the brightest one for maximum effect.

“Morning Blue” captured by Björn Lexius (Click Image to See More From Björn Lexius)

2) Compose your image

Create a mental picture of what you want to shoot. The magic of silhouettes is all in the shapes you create, so think about whether you want to capture dancers, romantic love scene or something else. This of course depends to some extent on your subject too.

Once you have a mental picture, place your subject in front of the light source and get the shape you want. If you are unsure of what you want, just try out some forms and see what you like. If you are taking the silhouette of a person, try to experiment with the positioning of their hands or features of the face – remember, its a silhouette so you’ve got to express it with the boundary of the object.

3) Fool your camera

Now this is the tricky part. Most cameras today are extremely intelligent, in fact so intelligent that as photographers we need to fool them sometimes to get what we need. To understand this bit, we need to get into metering of the photo.

Metering is the way in which a camera determines how to expose the photo. Remember, a camera can’t see colors, it can only sense the intensity of light – so when you point it to a scene, it sees shades of gray, finds the middle shade in the scene and sets the exposure accordingly.

“People Against the Sun” captured by Jimmy Drougo (Click Image to See More From Jimmy Drougo)

This effectively means that if you are shooting a dark subject, the camera will figure it out and will increase the exposure to compensate. Now that’s not what we wanted, did we? The way out is to point the camera to the brightest patch in the scene and press half the shutter button ( this is when it does metering, so we are making the camera feel that the scene is really bright ) and then move the camera to the desired scene while holding the shutter button half down.

When the desired composition is achieved, press the shutter button completely to capture the photo. Thats pretty much it – you now have a great silhouette shot.

About the author:
Pranav Bhasin is an avid photographer and provides photography learning tutorials on his blog (lifeblob dot com). He also likes to interact and help amateur photographers.

[via PictureCorrect Photography Tips]

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