Shoot a sil­hou­ette

NPhoto - - Special Feature -

What ’s the Big Idea?

Sil­hou­ettes can be very evoca­tive. Sunset is the best time to cre­ate them, es­pe­cially if you place your sub­ject against a stun­ning sky. Our eyes can still see lots of de­tail in these light­ing sit­u­a­tions, but a cam­era sen­sor can cap­ture a much smaller range of tones – where we might see some de­tail in a sil­hou­et­ted sub­ject, the cam­era will of­ten just see deep, black shadow. Any sub­ject can be used, as long as the shape of the sub­ject is iden­ti­fi­able, and prefer­ably very graphic.

What ’s the Key?

The key to suc­cess­ful sil­hou­ettes is back­light­ing. Place the sun be­hind the sub­ject or even shoot af­ter the sun has set in or­der to achieve bril­liant colour that will pro­vide an in­ter­est­ing back­drop. Ex­po­sure can be a chal­lenge be­cause the cam­era’s me­ter may want to un­der­ex­pose the scene, depend­ing on the ra­tio of dark to light ar­eas. Gen­er­ally, you will want to ex­pose for the back­ground. When I shot the fish­ing boat be­low, I over­ex­posed by one stop so the sky and re­flec­tion wouldn’t look too dark.

If most of your sub­ject lies be­low the hori­zon, you run the risk of it merg­ing into the dark tones. An ex­am­ple would be a tree in a field at sunset. If half of the trunk is be­low the hori­zon, you will only be able to see the top of the tree, which will look odd. The best way to solve this prob­lem is to get as low as pos­si­ble and move closer to the tree (us­ing a wide-an­gle lens if nec­es­sary).

You should be able to use a low ISO, such as 100, as the back­ground should be bright enough, and, of course, you should be us­ing a tri­pod. In most cases, try to use the op­ti­mal aper­ture of f/8 un­less you want to in­clude a sun­burst, when you need to use an aper­ture of f/16-f/22.

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