The basic keys to quality silhouette photography

By: Jason Greiner


When trying to delve into the more artistic aspects of photography, there are many directions a shutterbug can take. Some include using spot color techniques. Others may involve using either long or short exposures. And several more options may deal with any number of other strategies. But with all that being said, one of my personal favorites is working with silhouettes.

As one of the photographers in Pittsburgh PA that deal extensively with models, I like to take the opportunity to add a little something to my shots that might make them stand out among the rest. Silhouettes offer just enough artistry with an added element of mystery to make that happen.

So how do we create a quality silhouette? It really depends on several factors. Let's start off by considering the location at which you are shooting.

If you're photographing indoors, you'll need to make sure that the subject isn't lit from the front. Whatever type of lighting you use, whether it is natural light from a window or artificial lighting form hot lights or strobe units, it must be placed behind the subject.

If you're working outside, you want to find an area that is primarily dark. A few good options might be in walking tunnels or under overpasses. You can use the light from outside of these structures similar to how you would use lighting units in an indoor or studio setting – light the subject from behind.The only real exception is when you are shooting in the early evening and it is getting dark. In those instances, you can probably just use the light from the sun going down as your background and you'll be all set.

Now in the cases in which you are working with a human being as your subject, it is always a good thing to make sure that he or she is positioned in such a way that his or her arms, legs, torso, etc. is well defined within the image. Silhouettes can look pretty drab when the viewer cannot distinguish between one body part and the next.And in the cases in which you are not working with a living, breathing person, you should attempt to shoot objects with a well-defined outline. In most cases, this will probably be outdoor shooting, perhaps of trees or a hillside for example.

The final tip is that as a general rule, this style of image works better in black and white. This should only really be adjusted in a few instances such as the aforementioned use of the sunset as your background light. In some cases, the colors in the setting sun can really enhance the shot.Following these basic guidelines should help you to take some amazing artistic photos for all to see. You will be considered a pro in no time at all as the photos you take will certainly stand out from the crowd. The end result will be that you quickly become an authority in your area in regard to this type of photography.

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Jason Greiner is the owner of Three Rivers Creative Arts, a small creative graphic services business located in Pittsburgh, PA. his expertise includes photography, small-scale graphic design work and writing and editing. He is the author of two books of poetry as well and is considered one of the best photographers in Pittsburgh PA.

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