Photography is a big part of my life…I don’t know everything but I know some of the key points that I feel are necessary in taking a good photograph.  And for Photographer Appreciation Month, I’d love to share a few pointers that can make you a better photographer.   Check back every Tuesday this month to learn something new!

Today’s tip is how to shoot a silhouette image. Silhouettes are a great way to capture drama, mystery, emotion, and mood to the people viewing your photo. They also allow you to use your imagination on the image since they don’t give you a very clear picture of everything.

Basically what you have to do in order to produce a silhouette image is to place your subject in front of some source of light and force your camera to set its exposure based upon the brightest part of your picture which would be the background and not the subject of your image. This will underexpose your subject and turn it very dark.

First, you need to choose a strong subject to photograph. Pretty much anything can be made into a silhouette, although some subjects are better than others. A subject with a strong, identifiable, and distinct shape will make a good silhouette image.

Then you need to turn your flash off. If shooting on your automatic mode your camera will most likely want to use its flash, which will ruin your silhouette image.

In shooting silhouettes, instead of lighting the front of your subject, you need to make sure there is more light coming from the background than the foreground of your image. Basically, you want to light the back of your subject instead of the front. The perfect time to shoot a silhouette image is either at sunrise or sunset, but any bright light will do.

A plain bright background is the best for shooting a silhouette image. A bright cloudless sky with a sunset will make one of the prettiest images. If you have more than two subjects in your picture, make sure that they are separated so that you can distinguish the subject, and then let your imagination wander. If you are shooting a profile picture I recommend that you don’t shoot straight on, turn your subject to more of an angle so you can distinguish their features.

Most digital cameras have automatic metering which is good at sensing how to expose the picture so that everything is lit. The problem you might face is that your camera will want to try and light up your picture instead of underexposing it. What you can do to trick your camera is aimed your camera at the brightest part of the picture, push your shutter halfway down and don’t let go. Then move your camera back to frame the shot you want with the subject where you want it and finish taking the photo.

If that doesn’t work on your camera give the manual setting a try. Your shutter speed and aperture is what you are dealing with in manual photography, (if you aren’t familiar with shutter speed and aperture I recommend looking in your camera book).

CHALLENGE FOR THE WEEK:  Can you capture a silhouette?  Farm animals, machinery, children, and produce can all make good subjects.  Or use your imagination and experiment with others!

Illinois Corn Marketing Board Intern

Jenna Richardson
Southern Illinois University student

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