When used effectively in photography, silhouettes have the potential to make for visually intriguing and exciting shots. The strong contrast between the silhouetted shape and it's setting, along with the light source combine to create something simple yet engaging. Hopefully this set of examples will inspire you to go out and try capturing your own silhouette shots!
First up, you need to consider what your subject is going to be. It needs to be something that works on a two-dimensional level as the silhouette itself won't have any depth dimension to it. Think about the outline that will be created and whether there are any details that may be particularly interesting. Remember to disregard any detail within the subject that won't be picked on the outline, for example, there's not much point in shooting a silhouette of your best friend and asking them to smile, you just wont see it!
You now have the option of making your silhouette clearly identifiable, or using the medium and shapes to create something slightly more visually intriguing that might have the viewer guessing what it is. Play around with the subjects on offer and once you've captured your subject in a more natural situation, try using the medium to create something abstract and engaging.
It's important to remember that silhouettes are all about backlighting, using a light source that projects from behind the subject so that very little or none of the side of the subject that you are facing is lit. The sun is by far the easiest light source to use, but remember that you don't necessarily need to line up the light source and the subject, although that would make for an interesting shot, you just need to ensure that no light is being cast on the side of the subject that you are facing. There is far more detail on camera settings and techniques within the articles that I've listed below the photographic examples in 'Further Reading', so check those out if you want to know more about shutter speeds and aperture settings!
Here are a few links to really useful tutorials and articles that will teach you more about this type of photography:
- Simple Steps for Shooting Amazing Silhouettes
- 100 Spellbinding Silhouette Shots to Inspire and Amaze
- A Comprehensive Guide to Silhouettes - Photo Premium
Share Your Own Images!
I hope you've enjoyed the photographs and that they've inspired you to go out and capture something amazing for yourself! We'd love to see your favourite medium format shots - just post a comment and link below. Also, feel free to link to any resources that you've found particularly helpful in this area.