Silhouettes are dramatic and artistic. They force focus away from the subject while highlighting their surroundings, adding beauty, mystery, or even fear to the story of the frame. Lately the silhouette trend has moved towards more bold and vibrant colours in the background, giving them more personality. Here are seven tips for using vibrant backgrounds to create silhouettes that pop.
7 Tips for Creating Vibrant Silhouette Photos
#1 Pick the perfect setting and choose your subjects
The best times for silhouettes are at dawn or dusk, when the sun is low and the sky pops with colour. Picking the right setting can minimise your post-processing effort. Choose an open space and look for plants and inanimate objects that could be part of the show, too.
#2 Place yourself first, then your subject
Stand facing the sun, and then get your subject in between you and the sun. Pose your subject creatively to get dramatic silhouettes. Walk around, crouch, or use a step stool to get the right angles. If you have more than one subject, separate them with ample space in between. Use action shots like jumping, swinging, or running to add more dynamism into your frame.
#3 Always shoot in Manual mode
You’ll want to shoot in manual for silhouettes. Set your aperture for 8.0 or higher for a large depth of field and to reduce the amount of chromatic aberration. Increase your shutter speed to underexpose your subject. Keep your ISO as low as possible to avoid too much noise.
#4 Hold your shutter halfway to trick the camera
Begin by pointing at the brightest part of your frame but not directly at the sun. Hold down your shutter halfway, pan to recompose your frame, and then snap. The best metering modes to use are ‘spot’ or ‘centred’, depending on your focal point.
#5 Use the Exposure Compensation on your camera
If your subject is still not dark enough, use -1 and -3 EV (exposure value) for exposure compensation. Experiment with different settings to get the right mode.
#6 Cut the flash
This may be obvious, but we’ll say it anyway: if you shoot in automatic, the flash might go off. Switch to program mode, aperture priority, shutter priority, or manual.
#7 Use post-processing to perk things up
Do your best to capture your silhouettes with your camera, but remember that the magic happens during post-processing. Boost contrast, crush blacks, and adjust hues and saturation to get vibrant silhouette shots that just might go viral.