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All you need to know about how to create sunset silhouette photography.
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Sunsets (and sunrises) with their rich, vibrant and warm colors have always inspired photographers and artists.
However often adding an additional “star” to the composition, in the form of a striking silhouette can add more impact to the photo than relying on the sunset colors alone.
A silhouette is by definition a dark featureless shape set against a brighter background.
The best silhouettes are those that instantly reveal to the viewer the nature of the object through its outline form alone.
You should therefore try to ensure that your silhouette subject is as far as possible completely outlined against the bright background (often the sky) and this may mean adopting a low shooting point – or positioning your subject higher than you.
If your silhouette is a person, then have them
adopt a dynamic pose that shows as much outline form as possible to avoid forming
unrecognizable “blobs” where arms and legs merge into the bulk of the body
You will want your silhouette subject to be rendered in sharp focus.
Your camera’s default setting (which autofocuses on the subject AND sets exposure when you half press the shutter button) is not best suited to silhouette photography as it will make it difficult for you to recompose the shot to correctly set exposure.
So one of the following techniques are recommended
Left to its own devices your camera's automatic exposure metering system will endeavor to bring detail into as much of the frame as possible – often giving extra emphasis to exposing for wherever the focal point is. Assuming your intended silhouette will occupy a significant part of the frame (or at least be where you have focused) this will result in the bright areas (i.e. the beautiful deep sunset sky) being overexposed and rather than be a silhouette, your subject is likely to be a little underexposed but still with a significant amount of undesirable detail.
You will therefore need to override your camera’s automatic exposure in order to create the correctly exposed sunset silhouette that you desire.
There are numerous ways to do this, but detailed below is my preferred method – which works well when shooting handheld.
There are occasions where you may take a great silhouette photo, but the actual sunset colours on the occasion may be a little dull or disappointing.
Unless you are one of those photographers that is averse to any form of photo manipulation – don’t despair – these days it is relatively simple to create the affect you are looking for in post processing.
I have included a couple of examples above showing images before and after enhancement in photoshop. (I will create a separate article showing the technique I used to do this and publish it on this site soon!)
Also remember that you can be creative in your compositions – perhaps incorporate the reflection of the sunlit sky rather than the sky itself
the creative possibilities are endless!
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