How to take silhouette photos with your iPhone or DSLR

October 22, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

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I am obsessed with silhouettes. In this post I want to talk about why I love silhouettes, and run through how to capture them using your iPhone or DSLR cameras.

Here's why

I really enjoy integrating silhouettes into my wedding and portrait photography, much more than I enjoy trying to spell that word. This technique isolates your subject matter from a bright background and can result in interesting lines, forms, and ultimately compositions. It is certainly not the most technical or complicated technique, but I feel that the simplicity of the silhouette is what makes it timeless and one of my favorite things.

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Is that all I shoot?

You will find a lot of silhouettes in my portfolio and blog posts. Although I adore silhouettes, they make up a small percentage of what I actually shoot during a typical portrait session or wedding. It's not always practical or possible depending on the available light and there's not always time available to setup my flashes and create a silhouetted scene. Regardless, they have a special place in my heart.

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How to capture a silhouette using the iPhone:

-If you have iOS8, is it much easier to shoot a silhouette than it ever has been before, due to more camera controls afforded to us by Apple with the latest software. Yippee!
-Earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon are the easiest times of day to create a silhouette image. If the sun is too high in the sky, it will be difficult getting your subject between you and the sun in a visually pleasing way. But go for it!
-Tap your screen to focus. A "sun" icon will appear on the screen once the phone has locked focus.
-At this point hold your finger down on the screen and drag down to darken the exposure
-Press the on-screen shutter button or use the volume buttons to capture your image; hold down to capture a series of images
-For iPhone users not using iOS8, you need to press and hold on the brightest area of the sky for a few seconds, locking in exposure and focus; then snap the photo

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How to use a DSLR or similar camera:

-Switch your camera to manual mode
-Set your metering system to "spot" or "center-weighted" metering
-Set your ISO low, ISO 100 or there-about
-For creating sun-stars/sunbursts set your aperture to f/8 or smaller, depending on the lens
-Point your camera at the brightest part of the sky and adjust your shutter until the in-camera meter shows properly exposed, zeroed-out meter
-Focus on your subjects (this can make or break) -Start snapping!

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Tips and tricks

-Composition is key
-Arrange human subjects so that the side profile of their face is visible (chin up!)
-Try placing the sun right at the edge of your subject to create a sun star and add interest. Be cautious of where you place the sun in relation to your subject, as there are many areas of the body that a bright sun spot may be awkward for your audience and subject!
-Pay attention to other silhouetted elements in your photo, such as trees, buildings, other people and use those elements to make a more interesting composition
-If you have a cloudy sky: go wild! Silhouettes and cloudy sunsets are a match made in photography heaven

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