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Silhouette Photography Tips

Answers by CanvasPop is a weekly blog series featuring responses to your printing, photography or art questions. Check back on Fridays for more content! Have a question? Let us know at answers@canvaspop.com.

We’ve stumbled upon so many requests online, asking for some interesting photography ideas, so we wanted to come up with some suggestions over the next few weeks! Silhouettes can make for a mysterious, creative, and unique photograph — a definite must to master if you are just starting out. Timing can be tricky, as you need to catch the sun at a specific time of day, or manipulate your lighting in a certain way. Here are some tips to get things going:

LIGHTING IS KEY
You can’t create that dark, shadowy subject without the perfect lighting! Whichever source of lighting you choose to use, needs to be behind your subject in order for this to work. There needs to be as little light between the camera, and what you are shooting as possible — so shooting outdoors during a low light time of day (dawn or dusk) works best.

CHOOSE THE RIGHT SUBJECT
Since your subject will be dark in the photo, you’ll need to be able to make out what it is! Choose subjects with an interesting, or clearly defined shape before you start shooting. If you are shooting a person, for example, try for a profile shot so you can make out their features. More than one person? Keep their limbs and bodies as separate as possible so you can still tell they are people. Test the angles you are shooting from, and get creative!

BE WARY OF YOUR BACKDROP
Try to shoot your subject against a wide open space — shooting outdoors is definitely easiest with the sky or landscape as your backdrop. If there is too much going on (i.e buildings, bushes) your subject may get lost. Keep the backdrop as interesting as possible, a cool sunrise or sunset is perfect!

CAMERA SETTINGS
This goes without saying, but first make sure that your flash is turned off! Don’t shoot in auto-mode since your camera will work hard at capturing the light on your subject, which is the opposite of what you want. Try program mode instead, and set your exposure value to -1. Trying a few test shots is always a good idea. If you find the silhouette isn’t dark enough, reset your exposure value to -2. Keep the focus on the subject so it’s as clear and crisp in the photo as possible.

Have some great silhouettes you’re looking to show off? Check out our custom canvas prints!

Photo credit: Nattu via Flickr