by Scott Turnmeyer,
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I absolutely LOVE taking silhouette photos. I personally feel that they can be some of the most beautiful and dramatic photos that you can take. You can get some fantastic silhouette photos during a sunrise or sunset, especially if you have some of those fantastic colors in the sky behind. In this post I’ll go through a few things that I look for when setting up for a silhouette, camera settings and a few other tips. Hope you enjoy it.
First I’d like to go through and break down my latest silhouette photo, which is the one above of the lifeguard tower. This photo was taken in Malibu, CA during a beautiful March sunset. I actually didn’t come to the beach planning on taking a silhouette, but as I walked past this tower I couldn’t resist. I always get on location a bit early, like for this sunset, and that is the perfect time for a silhouette shot. As you can see here the sun is still fairly high, but you can use that to your advantage. I do recommend using the LCD screen on your camera after shots to see the results of a silhouette, because it could be too light or too dark. The goal is to find that fine line of camera settings to have a dark outline, but light enough to provide the light from behind without it being blown out. This shot I had an ISO setting of 250, a 19MM wide angle lens, shutter speed of 1/80 sec and an aperture of f/29. Why such a small aperture? Because of two reasons.
1. When I shoot sunrise/sunset photos I want the shutter to stay open as long as possible without blowing out the highlights. This gives you those vivid colors and stars your points of light. In this shot I also had a neutral density filter on to darken the photo even more.
2. When you take a shot like this you don’t want to think about depth of field. Most of the time you want everything in focus, so the higher aperture you have the larger the field of focus.
This shot I actually played with a bit. I decided I didn’t want a full silhouette, but I did want to see a bit of the detail of the lifeguard tower, so I changed the settings to allow just the right amount of light in, as you can see in the photo above. I also took multiple exposures and moved my tripod around a bit to catch the sun just peeking through the tower rails. Change the composition a bit.
Other silhouettes are a bit easier, really you need to focus on composition more than anything. Like the ones below.
Really the options for silhouettes are endless. There are a few future ideas that I have that will take some planning. I hope this post helps you get some great ones.
Until next time,