If you found this article through a search on Google, then congratulations because it means you know how to spell “silhouette”.
I like taking silhouette shots. When they work, they can be beautiful. They’re easy to shoot and process. But I’ve seen a lot of bad ones too. Here are a few quick tips on silhouette photography.
First, the subject must have an interesting graphic design. This picture of the dancer works well because the model (a.k.a. my wife) knows how to pose. The interesting pose is what makes the shot. I’ve seen a lot of trees used as silhouettes. In most cases, this doesn’t work because trees don’t usually have interesting shapes. What you should look for is a simple, uncluttered subject with a shape that is compelling all on its own.
Secondly, on the metering, I’ve found that the camera meter will usually get pretty close on creating silhouettes. The lit background tends to turn your foreground subject dark. You can always adjust slightly using exposure compensation or in post-processing. The most important thing is to avoid blown highlights in the background, so be careful not to overexpose when shooting.
Third, pay close attention to the details of the design. For example, the profile of the lady with the rose is an interesting image. However, the design could have been slightly improved if I had tucked her hair in back underneath the hat (or cloned it out). This would have simplified the image somewhat.
Lastly, fix problem areas. For example, sometimes clothing tends to look a bit baggy on silhouettes. In cases like this, you may want to use Photoshop’s “liquefy” tool (or another method) to make minor adjustments to the shape of the clothes.