“Never shoot towards the light.” We’ve probably all heard this old photography “rule,” but, for now, let’s treat it more as a general guideline. If you want to shoot some photos that really pop, that really jump out and grab you—shoot towards the light.
Silhouettes are photos where your subject is dark against a bright background. We have probably all taken shots like this by mistake—when taking a picture of a friend or relative who was standing in front of a window, or standing with the sun behind them, etc. But photos like this give us a dark subject with a bright, washed out background—not exactly what we were hoping for. This happens because the digital sensor in our camera cannot accurately capture scenes with such high contrast. However, this “weakness” can be turned to our advantage.
When silhouettes are created on purpose, they can be among the most striking and engaging of shots:
Using a sunrise or sunset as the backdrop for your subject can give stunning results—your subject becomes a bold black figure against a canvas of bright and vivid colour.
When you use a bright and cloud filled sky as your background, your subject often doesn’t come out pure black, but comes across as dark and moody against a brooding sky.
So lets take a look at how you can use your digital camera to create silhouette shots with impact.
• You will need to get familiar with your camera’s exposure compensation feature to get the most out of your silhouette shots—your camera manual should contain simple instructions on how to use this feature.
• Most digital cameras have an exposure compensation range of –2 to +2 that is adjustable by increments of 1/3—don’t be afraid to try them all.
• Use “+” exposure compensation to make your shots brighter and “-” exposure compensation to make them darker.
• When shooting these high contrast shots, your camera’s default exposure settings may not give the results that your are looking for—so, shoot, then review, shoot, then review.
• Don’t completely rely on your camera’s view screen either. Taking several shots at different exposure settings will give you the best chance of getting the shot you really want—photos often look very different when viewed at home on your computer screen.
Happy shooting, and remember, don’t be afraid to shoot towards the light.
For more digital photography tips, visit Jeff Galbraith’s web site: http://www.jeffgalbraithphotography.ca
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