Most photographers will tell you that the best time of day to shoot photos is just before twilight when the light takes on an almost magical buttery soft quality. It makes pretty much any picture look simply amazing.
I love shooting at twilight for a whole other reason: silhouettes.
Silhouettes are photos where a dark subject is portrayed in front of a bright background. All you can see of the subject is their outline. I love the mystery and depth these photos offer and the stories they tell. They always look so incredibly professional, but I have a secret to share, silhouettes are actually incredibly easy to shoot, even with a phone camera.
1) Make sure your subject is very distinctly identifiable
By nature silhouettes are going to blur out anything distinctive about the features that photos usually focus on – faces, hair, coloring, etc, so you have to be careful to photograph subjects that are easily recognizable. If you’re shooting a photo with more than one subject, make sure each person stands in a way that makes them both recognizable.
2) Make sure the background is simple and uncluttered
The silhouettes have to stand out clearly in front of your background or it will be hard to see what’s represented in the image. The background doesn’t have to be completely empty, but you don’t want too many elements that can interfere with the focus of your picture.
3) Position your subject between you and the light source
As I mentioned above, my favorite light source for this type of photo is the setting sun, but anything works. You could try positioning kids in front of an open window, in a lit doorway, or anything else that creates a bright light.
If the light is coming from behind you, you won’t be able to get a silhouette effect.
4) Tap on the bright part of the screen to tell the camera how to expose the picture
Your phone camera is super smart and has automatic metering which senses how to light a picture so that everything in your image is visible. To get a silhouette effect you’re going to have to trick it a bit.
Get your subjects exactly where you want them in the frame and then tap the most lit part of the screen. You’ll be telling your iPhone to use that lit area to meter the image and it’ll drop your subjects into darkness. Click to take the photo and presto! Silhouette!
5) Have fun!
Let yourself experiment with this technique. It’s easy and fun and it can create a really neat dramatic effect that will help your photos stand out!