As lomographers, there are two opposing forces that heavily influence what we imprint on film: darkness and light. How do you get them to work together to your advantage? Try snapping silhouettes!
There’s no mistake in it: one of the most visually enticing and compelling techniques in art and photography is the silhouette. We actually have a lot of nicely done silhouette snaps in various formats, colors, and intensity here in the community, and some of our fellow lomographers have also shared their techniques when playing with darkness and light.
I often find myself drawn to taking silhouette shots even if I don’t initially plan to do so—there’s just something so powerful about silhouettes that commands your undivided attention. I realized that I follow a certain set of conventions when shooting silhouette photos, which I want to share with you in a quick rundown:
1. Use slide films.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that color negatives or black and white films aren’t capable of nice silhouettes; I just find that slide films are able to create more striking photos overall. Its tendency to paint vibrant backdrops against the dark outlines make silhouette snaps less drab and more eye-catching.
2. Choose interesting subjects.
It’s good to start with silhouette portraits or people shots, but once you’ve gotten the hang of it, don’t be afraid to try it with more challenging and interesting subjects. Explore your surroundings, go somewhere new, be on the lookout for interesting shapes and lines. For starters, see if you can get to a good vantage point to snap a silhouette of the city skyline at sunset or dusk.
3. Reduce your subjects to dark, solid shapes.
One important thing to remember: photographing your subject with a light source behind it won’t always guarantee what I consider a “perfect” silhouette. What does a “perfect silhouette” constitute, you ask? Your subject should be reduced to a dark, solid shape, with nothing but its outline and form indicating what it really is. To do this, you need to make sure that your subject is only lit from behind; even the slightest light in front of your subject will blow away the mystery surrounding a good silhouette shot. I find that it’s best to shoot silhouettes during sunrise or sunset.
4. Shoot with lower shutter speeds and smaller apertures.
Shooting silhouettes isn’t actually as easy as it seems, so I tried to find out if there’s a more technical approach to it. According to Wikipedia's page on silhouettes, the aperture is usually set to f/9-11, and the shutter speed to 1/120-1/200. This is why point-and-shoot cameras with fixed or limited shutter speed and aperture settings are often good for shooting silhouettes.
So, those are just my personal pointers! I know each of us have different styles and conventions when shooting silhouettes, so at this point, I’m leaving the comments section open for everyone to share their insights and techniques!