PHOTO TIP - SILHOUETTES - aiming for more impact, less detail

Have I ever mentioned how much I love images that have silhouettes?  I didn't realize how much until I tried to pull together a portfolio of my portrait work and discovered that most of my favourite people images are of folks you can't see.  Ha.  Wonder what that means?  Stick to landscapes maybe.

But here is the interesting thing... I tend to create landscape silhouettes too. Why? Because my goal is to make images that have impact and silhouettes are an easy way to do that.

To create a silhouette you need to expose your image for a bright background and allow your foreground or subject to be under exposed so that it becomes a solid black shape.  

Do this and your image impact goes up for three reasons:

  1. Less Detail - Have you ever noticed that sometimes you have a great image but it is so packed with detail that you can't really tell what the subject is?  By turning your subject into a silhouette, you immediately remove some of that detail.  This is really useful when you have trees or rock outcroppings or people as your subjects - sometimes the details of these things can actually distract you.
  2. High contrast -  There's no rocket science here.  A dark subject against a bright background creates high contrast and makes the subject pop.  Watch carefully though - you want to make sure your subject makes a strong distinct shape otherwise your audience won't be able to tell what the silhouette is.
  3. High Intrigue - With little to no detail the viewer is left to imagine it and create their own story for the image. Viewer engagement heightens impact.

So how about trying it out.  See if you can capture more attention by leaving out some detail.

The image above is out of the archives.  Interestingly enough, the subject here is the sky and the gorgeous colour that arrived at sunset on what had been a rainy Saturday in cottage country.  In our part of the world, summer weekends in cottage country are precious.  The good weather season is short.  A full day of rain on a Saturday can be very disappointing... but sometimes Mother Nature makes up for it by sending a spectacular sunset.  More image details and prints for sale here.


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