Shooting silhouettes can be fun and challenging all at the same time. The following tips will help you create compelling silhouettes that demand a second look.
THE MAIN SUBJECT
The key element in any silhouette is the main subject. Position the subject so that it is backlit by the sunset.
Make sure that the subject is easily identifiable. If the audience is left wondering what the subject is, the image will lack impact. When using a person as the subject, pose them in a way that makes it easy for the viewers to understand what is happening. Watch out for limbs that touch in a way that makes them confusing.
Before you even consider taking the first shot, think about the composition. Watch for interesting angles and perspectives. After you decide on an compelling vantage point, set up your gear.
Adjusting your camera settings will help produce the best image possible.
To ensure that the sky is bright and the subject is blacked out, expose for a bright section of sky. Lock this exposure and recompose to include the silhouette. To achieve this metering in Auto mode, find a bright section of sky. Half press the shutter button to lock in the exposure. Keep the button pressed half way and recompose. When you are happy with the composition, take the shot. If you prefer to shoot in Manual mode, start with the settings the camera chooses while in Auto. Switch over to Manual and experiment with the aperture and shutter speeds until you are happy with the result.
Do you want to control the sunset even more? Change the white balance. This adjustment can help make a warmer or cooler sunset.
TO FLARE OR NOT TO FLARE
Prior to the sun setting completely, you have the opportunity to decide if you want to include sun flares in the image. To avoid sun flares, position your subject in front of the sun so that it is blocked completely. If including a sun flare would add to the image, position yourself so that the sun is just peeking through an edge of your subject.
Most people think that the best time to shoot a silhouette is the 30 minutes prior to sunset as well as during the sunset itself. But wait! If you put your gear away as soon as the sun sets, you will miss some amazing shooting opportunities. Although the sun has set, light is still available for up to 20 more minutes. If shooting a stationery subject, simply lower your shutter speed to allow more light to hit the sensor. Keep shooting and decreasing your shutter speed until it is almost completely dark.
Shooting silhouettes is a wonderful way to add dramatic images to your portfolio. Keep these tips in mind the next time a sunset calls you to get out and shoot.