13th September 2011 Silhouette Photography

Silhouette PhotographyToday I gave myself the day off and so decided to travel into Brisbane to visit a photographic exhibition of the wonderful Street Photography of Henri Cartier-Bresson.

I spent two and a half hours looking at his amazing Black and White images and loved every minute of it. But just before I went into the exhibition, I saw this Silhouette and reached down for my Canon IXUS point and shoot and captured it.

Of course Silhouette’s were around long before photography but now, using cameras it is so very easy to use this technique of photographing people or objects against the light. The light might be the brightest part of your framed image, such as a sunrise or sunset or an open doorway, a technique known as contre-jour or it might be used in a studio using studio lighting lighting.

Silhouetting occurs when there is a large lighting ratio that gives very high contrast; the difference between the lightest shades (the background) and the darkest shades (the foreground person or objects being Silhouette’d). In lighting ratio terms, a ratio of 8:1 or less may show some detail in the Silhouette and no detail in a lighting ration of 16:1 or greater.

The exposure is set for the background, usually with an aperture of f/8 or f/11.

Here is how to easily achieve a Silhouette

  1. Select a scene that is back lit. A person again a sunset for instance
  2. Put the camera on Aperture priority f/8 and the metering mode set to Matrix Mode (for Nikon) or Average Metering (for Canon) or Multi Zone. Do not set the camera to spot metering.
  3. Focus on the foreground silhouette subject
  4. Turn your flash off. For fully automatic cameras or modes that turn the flash on automatically, place your finger in front of the flash.  Alternatively, If you want to see a tiny bit of detail in your silhouette, turn your flash to a minimum setting or for fully automatic cameras or modes, place  a folded piece of grease proof paper over the flash and so reducing its power.

and take the photo, its as easy as that. For fully automatic cameras, just ensure the subject is not too large in the frame and take the photo (if the subject takes up most of the frame then the metering will be affected and a silhouette is not likely to be achieved.

Tech Stuff
Canon IXUS 40
Fully automatic settings
Tiny amount of detail brought back into the mans face and shirt in post processing  (but see point 4 above by partially using a flash)
My earlier post on Henri Cartier-Bresson here
Silhouette Photography

show hide 2 comments

johnc I am taken back by this photo. Would love it on my wall

Marion Impressive with that camera!!!

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