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Taking silhouettes

A silhouette is a classic and dramatic photographic technique. By isolating the outline of a subject while eliminating detail, a silhouette places tremendous emphasis on shape and contrast. It isn't only popular for portrait photography, but also landscapes and nature photography. While traditional SLRs create a silhouetted shot with a manual exposure adjustment, the automatic nature of digital cameras makes achieving this effect more difficult. However, it isn't impossible to shoot silhouettes with your digital camera if you follow a few simple guidelines.

An extreme contrast

A silhouette is defined as an outline of something that appears dark against a lighter background. This usually occurs by exposing for the background, which underexposes the subject and produces a silhouette. Some silhouettes completely erase discernible detail in the subject, while some allow small areas of detail around the edges of the subject to maintain depth. As we mentioned earlier, the use of silhouettes is a great portrait technique when isolating identifying characteristics, such as a nose or a chin, but silhouettes can be equally powerful when shooting more natural shots, as the example shown in Figure A. A tree branch backlit by the moon, a surfer walking the beach at dawn, or a bird juxtaposed against the setting sun are all wonderful ways to use silhouettes to create a particular mood in your photography.


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