One of the photographs featured in Through the Lens in the March 2009 issue was a silhouette of our very own contributing editor Jessica Sprague in Central Park. I receive a lot of questions about how to create silhouettes, so I thought we’d talk a bit more about them this month!
What do you need to make a subject silhouetted?
It’s simple, really, and you can do it with any camera—point and shoot or SLR. All you need is a subject that’s backlit. What do I mean by that? Your light source should be coming from behind the subject toward the camera. The best times to get this look are sunrise and sunset. The sun will be coming from the side of the horizon instead of above it, so you are able to place your subject in front of the sun.
To create this look during the middle of the day, have the subject stand in shade, under a building or in front of a window. In this photograph, I had Jessica stand under an archway. As you can see, all the bright light is behind her.
How does the technique work?
You don’t actually need to change any settings on your camera. You can make a silhouette just by shooting on auto in backlit situations. This is because your camera meters overall (whatever is in the viewfinder) and then comes up with an exposure. Because there is so much light behind the subject, your camera will expose for the bright light and the subject will appear dark. The trick is to make sure you focus on the subject even though she appears dark; otherwise, the silhouette will be blurry and the image won’t look as good.
That’s it. Creating a silhouette is fun, simple to do and gives you a great, dramatic look. Try it yourself!Appeared in: March 2009