- Wait for or create the right light. When you're shooting outdoors, the low angle of morning and evening light will give you the best colors as well as good contrast. Indoors, you'll want a bright background behind your subject.
- Find a foreground with interesting outlines. Silhouettes are all about form. Look for something intriguing.
(Success Tip #1: Improve your photography with a simple deck of cards.)
- Find the right background, too. Chances are, your background isn't going to be just a light source. a colorful sky is good, but a reflective surface such as a lake or river, or a window with light streaming through can be very effective, too.
- Align the subject with the background carefully. Keepig in mind that your subject will be dark, be sure that it lies over a portion of the background that will compliment it rather than distracting from it.
- Watch out for lens flare. While letting some of the sun create a nice burst as it peeks out from behind an object and rim lighting can add a lot to a silhouette, lens flare isn't always going to be a nice artistic effect. Try to avoid it in most of your shots.
- Compose carefully. Use the rules of composition to build a strong image with the form of your freground objects in mind. Balance is particularly important, because solid black areas will have more visual weight. Consider what the main point of interest should be and compose to emhpasize it.
- Focus on an edge. You're probably going to be shooting with a wide aperture, so set your focus so that the edges of your subject will be crisp and well defined.
(Succes Tip #2: Take photos of people having fun and get paid.)
- Keep the ISO as low as possible. Noise tends to increase in low light and in very dark areas of an image, so shoot at a low ISO setting.
- Expose for the highlights. This is the key to making the silhouette happen. If you're not ready to set your exposure manually, set your camera for spot metering and use your exposure lock. Don't use the sun or the brighest point of your light source, set the exposure for a bright area in the background. For example, if you're shooting a sunset, the bright area of a cloud would be a good metering point.
- When in doubt, bracket. Bracketing your exposures will give you the opportunity to choose one with the most pleasing exposure balance and contrast for processing. You may also want to blend two or more for the best effect.
While photographers spend most of our time balancing our exposures to bring out maximum detail in all the areas of our photos, there are those occasions when reducing the foreground of the shot to pure black can create a very dramatic and effective. I'm talking, of course, about shooting silhouettes and they can be some of the most striking photos in almost any genre.
While the basic idea of shooting a sihouette is so simple that it has probably happened to you acidentally, creating an effective silhouette is much more involved. It takes patience, practice, compositional skills and a good working konwledge of your camera. Most of all, it takes a good eye, to recognize the opportunity to shoot one.
Developing the eye is completely up to the individual, but the rest of the process is a matter of paying attention to 9 simple things. Follow these and you'll be surprised at how soon you're creating fine art with your silhouette photos:
Here's a short video from Adorama and Corey Rich of an outdoor silhouette shoot that helps illustrate a few of these tips. Enjoy!