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BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: New Questions

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Photography Question 
Amy Grindell

member since: 5/1/2005
 

How to Shoot Silhouettes Against a Sunset


I want to take a picture of a person all black in the foreground and a colored sunset in the background. Would I need different equipment for that? I have a Nikon SLR 70.

5/1/2005 11:43:37 AM

 
Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member
cammphoto.com

member since: 7/17/2003
  Simply meter off the background to the left or right of the sun (preferably a blue portion of the sky), and shoot at that setting. Everything in the foreground will silhouette.

5/1/2005 11:47:43 AM

 
Dev Mukherjee

member since: 12/21/2002
  In addition to what Bob said, make sure you do not use the flash while shooting the silhouette. Your camera may also inadvertently pop up the flash in certain exposure modes. You have to safeguard against that.
-- dev.

5/3/2005 10:11:18 AM

 
member 
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 7/18/2004
  Hi Bob,
The silhouette attempts I've done, the foreground wasn't quite totally silhouetted ... should I close my lens down by 1 stop to better ensure a complete silhouette?
Thanks.

5/3/2005 11:40:27 AM

 
Kerry L. Walker

member since: 12/21/2004
  I was going to suggest that you shoot a couple of extra shots, at 1 and 2 stops overexposure. Make sure your lab doesn't try to correct for the foreground too.

5/3/2005 12:07:02 PM

 
Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member
cammphoto.com

member since: 7/17/2003
  Carrie,
To insure that your foreground subjects will silhouette, there needs to be at least 3 or 4 stops difference between your subject and the brighter background. (Having your subjects wear dark clothing makes this easier to accomplish.) As Kerry W. mentioned, bracketing is always wise. Just be sure to use the meter reading off the SKY (not the subject) as your starting point.

This link will show an example using this process:
http://www.betterphoto.com/gallery/dynoGallDetail.asp?photoID=326042

5/3/2005 2:30:28 PM

 
Maria Melnyk

member since: 5/2/2004
  You can also add a colored filter for a more dramatic effect. Any color will work, depending on the effect you want. I use orange and cyan filters. Orange has a warmer look, and the cyan one (bluish) has a colder look.

5/4/2005 2:28:46 PM

 
member 
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 7/18/2004
  thanks, bob. but i've done that in the past and i'm shooting candids, and I still didn't get a total siloutte.

here's a pic of a great silouette http://www.betterphoto.com/gallery/big.asp?photoID=755862&catID=&style=&rowNumber=16&memberID=74482


5/4/2005 3:40:17 PM

 
Maria Melnyk

member since: 5/2/2004
  Carrie - You may have been overexposing your background. Meter the ambient light instead of off the sky, and then close the lens down by one stop, but make sure that the reading off the shadow side of your subject is 4 stops less. It will help if the sun is low in the sky. This should work for you.

5/4/2005 3:47:10 PM

 
Maria Melnyk

member since: 5/2/2004
 
 
 
Aha! Carrie - I just thought of something else. Could it be that your exposure and technique are correct, but your lab is printing your silhouettes too light? This happened to me just yesterday; I had to ask for another print. Here is a copy of the image that I uploaded.

5/5/2005 7:06:00 PM

 
Maria Melnyk

member since: 5/2/2004
 
 
 
Uh, oh, upload didn't work. I'm gonna try again, and if nothing happens, I apologize!

5/5/2005 7:29:44 PM

 
member 
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 7/18/2004
  Maria - forgot to mention, I have a digital. So thank goodness I can make my corrections/modifications immediately.

Thanks, Bob - for me I think somehow understanding the stop differences better 'registered' than anything else. Thanks!

and Thank you, Kerry - sometimes in the midst of my frustration, I can forget some of the most useful yet basic tool ever! Thanks for reminding me about bracketing (I have a digital, so no worries of the film labs).

5/10/2005 11:46:42 AM

 

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