Shooting Silhouettes

– BPSOP Instructor: Scott Stulberg


Most of the time when we are photographing, we’re thinking about the perfect exposure. We don’t want to underexpose or overexpose our images but we especially want the main subject to have the right exposure.  But not often enough do we think about silhouetting the main subject or even the majority of the image, which can result in an extremely powerful photograph. Sometimes, we can end up with something even more powerful than if the main subject had plenty of light on it.

Often, I’m out and about looking for subjects that I can shoot in silhouette and this can be almost any kind the subject and it can also be during the day or night. It’s easier than you think and usually your cameras exposure works in your favor because it tries to expose for the light area of the image and give you a correct exposure and more often than not this results in a perfect silhouette in areas that you want dark. It’s actually easier than you think to create a stunning silhouette!

The first nine images are all silhouettes with people in them in different places around the world and under different lighting situations. All of them are extremely backlit, mostly by the sun although the fourth image I used a light and a fog machine and had my friend light a cigarette to make the shot even more powerful.  Images 7 through 10 were all done during my Burma workshops where I really push my students to look for powerful silhouettes because many places on the globe really lend themselves to unique, one of a kind silhouettes. Previsualizing what would look great very dark, against a bright background, is often the first step toward getting a very rewarding silhouette.

The second set of nine images are also in diverse locations including some showing animals in silhouette and even the night sky which I love shooting all over the world. Silhouettes can be almost anything and almost anywhere as long as you have something interesting as the main focal point and a bright background.

A good example is in the first image above of my wife on horseback in Costa Rica. On the beach at sunset, I knew that by shooting her riding on horseback in front of the sun, that my camera would correctly expose the beautiful orange sunset and anything in the foreground would be totally black. That’s exactly what I got and it’s easy to predict these things and come up with something that’s different and unique.

These images are all diverse but have one thing in common. The main subject is black with no detail but the background is much brighter, making your subject stand out. Using the sun or bright light to your advantage is just another way to think different and set yourself apart from others. It’s all about thinking outside of the box and trying to end up with an image that has stopping power!

















– BPSOP Instructor: Scott Stulberg

Scott Teaches:

Eye to Eye: Capturing the Face


“I just wanted to thank you for another wonderful class. I have to confess that each week when I read the new assignment, my first reaction was mild panic and a deep certainty that I would not be able to produce anything worthwhile that fit within the parameters you had set. But before I knew it, the ideas started to flow, and I quickly became obsessed (no, that isn’t too strong a word!) with exploring the possibilities. I can honestly say that the photos I produced in response to your assignments are among my favorites. Thanks for bringing out a creative side I didn’t know I had!”

Barbara Geiger
Understanding Color

“Thank you so very much for this course! It’s allowed me to take the blinders off and present my images for what I want them to be without being a slave to the “reality” of the camera. I would also add that in conjunction with your printing course, this has been the most useful course I’ve ever taken. Your notes are more than comprehensive and your comments and critiques are direct, clear, and always directed to the improvement of the art.”

After the click

” I want to thank you for this class and for your patience and availability to answer all of my questions. I have learned very much through this class. I have used LR in the past, but mostly for editing images. I now have a better grasp in the organization of my images, an even better understanding of editing images, and an understanding of the value of presets. I still have a lot to learn, but this has put me on the road to be able to improve my photography. Again, thank you! ”

Dale Yates
Lightroom Quickstart

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