You don't always have to fill your sunset portrait with flash. Like palm trees on a holiday postcard, you can photograph your subject as a simple silhouette to bring a little mystery to the scene.
Both compacts and DSLRs
can be used for shooting silhouettes. If you choose to use a DSLR what lens you use and if you use a tripod
is down to personal preference but make sure you always turn off your flash as it will fill your shot with light and ruin your silhouette.
Techniques to try
Usually, silhouettes are associated with beach sunsets but they can be created by placing your subject in front of any source of light. You then need to tell your camera to expose for the background and not your subject. This leaves your subject underexposed so hence a silhouette is created. Plain but bright backgrounds such as a cloudless sunset sky work the best and remember, you no longer have textures and tones to help make your subject stand out so make sure they're interesting or have a distinctive shape that's easily recognisable. If it's a person you're photographing shoot them as a profile, as you'll be able to see more features then you would face on. Don't have too many objects too close together either as they'll all merge into one indistinct shape.
Nearly all digital cameras can automatically meter but this wont always give you the silhouette you're looking for. You can 'trick' the camera by half pressing the shutter button while focused on the brightest part of your scene before moving back to frame the shot but this means your camera will focus on this and not your subject. To combat this try using a smaller aperture or manual focus. Spot metering can also help keep your subject silhouetted as the camera will meter from one central spot rather than several bright areas of the scene. Some cameras like the Panasonic GF1
have a silhouette mode which means you don't have to worry about camera settings and can focus on getting the framing right.
You've read the article, now go take some fantastic images. You can then upload the pictures, plus any advice and suggestions you have into the dedicated Photo Month forum for everyone at ePHOTOzine to enjoy.