Easy Tips for Capturing Summer Silhouettes

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Image courtesy of SPS Grads member Stephanie Simon

Silhouettes are so striking.  They’re often able to draw us in and make us feel the warmth of long summer sunsets and their simplicity often helps us to appreciate the simple joys those long evenings can bring.

Does trying to capture a silhouette intimidate you?

It doesn’t have to.  We recently spent a whole month learning about back light in our Grads program.  A lesson on silhouettes was a natural fit and we asked our own Grads student, Stephanie Simon, to give us her best tips.  With summer upon us, we wanted to share some highlights from that lesson in hopes that you might be able to capture a magical summer silhouette of your own.

Metering

The key to creating a silhouette is to meter off the brightest spot in the frame, which should always be the sky. I prefer to use spot metering and usually meter off a bright cloud, rather than the sun (unless there are no clouds). This helps ensure I end up with a bright sky, a dark foreground and strong contrast between the two and few or no blown highlights.  If metering is a foreign concept to you, we invite you to try our FREE Learn to Shoot in Manual mini course.  It’s a great introduction to the exposure triangle and a great place to start experimenting with some camera settings.

Props

Props can add a lot of visual interest to silhouettes and are a great way to add to the story. Some props that might be fun to try include balloons, a kite, an oversize bubble wand, a cape, a butterfly net, flowers, a favourite toy like a dinosaur, or even a bicycle or a wagon! Almost any prop will work, as long as it is identifiable in the frame.

Photo courtesy of SPS Grads student Roxie Trussell

Black isn’t everything

A silhouette can work even if your subject/foreground isn’t totally black. As long as your subject is mostly dark, and the background is bright with clean lines of contrast between subject and background, the image will pop. I don’t get too hung up on having my subject totally black but I do want lots of contrast.

Photo courtesy of SPS Grads student Shannon Wald

Practice!

The last, and most important, tip is to just try it! Practice on inanimate objects. Practice on people. Practice at different times of the day or with different light sources. Just practice! Play around with your settings to get a feel for what works for you in different types of light. And don’t feel discouraged if you aren’t jumping for joy with your results straight away. I have shot hundreds of silhouettes that were a hot mess. I messed up my settings, my composition is terrible or I end up with the dreaded black mystery blob subject.

Be brave.  Get out there this summer and try some silhouettes.  What have you got to lose?  If our Grads program, with a new theme every month to keep you growing and shooting intrigues you, we’d love to have you joins us.

You can click here to request an invitation.

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