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In The Practicing Photographer, photographer and teacher Ben Long shares a weekly serving of photographic instruction and inspiration. Each installment focuses on a photographic shooting scenario, a piece of gear, or a software technique. Each installment concludes with a call to action designed to inspire you to pick up your camera (or your mouse or smartphone) to try the technique for yourself.
Hi, welcome to the practicing photographer. I'm Ben Long and normally I come here and talk to you about things like good exposure and evening out exposure, and doing all these things that are technically correct. This week we're throwing all that out the window. We're going to do some things that are technically incorrect, but, but are aesthetically the right choice for a particular subject matter. I'm standing here in silhouette. I am absolutely, technically incorrect. I am underexposed. You can't see me. But that doesn't mean that it's a bad picture to take a silhouette.
I've got Steven Kent here standing behind me on the edge of a cliff with a didgeridoo. Because he's back-lit, I immediately recognize this as a potential silhouette. In fact, my eye is not showing me a lot of detail. I can see that this is maybe a good time to shoot a silhouette, and when I do, I get this. He's not quite pure silhouette yet. I can still see some detail in him. So I'm going to dial in one stop of negative exposure compensation. Now we're getting somewhere. There's still a little bit of detail. I'm going to keep going.
Two stops of negative exposure compensation. I like that pose, Steven. And this is coming along. Now we're getting into pure silhouette and we're also bringing some really cool color out of the background. What makes for a good silhouette? Simplicity is the order of the day when you're going for a simple black outline of somebody. So that's why I immediately got down on the ground. By getting down on the ground I'm reducing the amount of landscape that's behind him. That gives me more of a view of his leg. The more of the subject thatI can reveal in the silhouette, the more recognizable it's going to be.
Obviously, for silhouette I need strong backlighting. Dusk is a great time for shooting silhouettes. Once I've identified the simple subject matter, I try to find a camera position to ensure that I'm getting as much simplicity as possible. I would not want to shoot him in front of a corn field or something where there's a lot of other visual, complication. And then it's just a matter of working the shot just as you always would, bracketing your negative exposure compensation, trying to play with how much silhouette you like. I will say that there's one thing that you may not think of right away, and that's using your fill flash.
By popping up a little bit of, or by popping in a little bit of flash, I get something that's mostly a silhouette but that still has a few foreground details. And that can be really interesting. What I like here is the, the white squares on his shirt light up more than the others, and they stand out a lot. They really reflect the flash. Having trouble. I need a wider lens here, or I need to move backwards. So, I put it to you to give this a try.
It's a, a very different way of looking at the world from the idea of perfectly correct exposure. Head out at dusk. Find some simple geometry somewhere. Put it against the back light of the setting sun. Lower your exposure with some negative exposure compensation and start shooting. To add a little bit of extra punch to the image, try popping up your flash and throwing in some fill flash. This is a technically incorrect exposure that might yield a very correct image.
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