Photo Tip Friday: Using Silhouettes in Photography, Part 2

by Mary Denman   @MaryDenman

Last week, I gave tips on how to use silhouettes in your photography. There will be a link at the bottom of today's post to view Part 1. 

Today, I'm going to go back over the same photos, but this time, listing: 

Time Value (Tv) - Shutter Speed
Aperture Value (Av) - Shutter Opening Size
ISO Value - Sensitivity of the Film

Why? So you can understand how to take these shots yourself. 

Let's get started. 

PHOTO 1: Church silhouette by Mary Denman Photography
PHOTO 1: I took a fast shot at 1/1250 sec. The shutter or F-stop was at 5.6 which let in a lot of light. The speed of the film (ISO) was 400 which means it needed less light for a good shot. 

Notice the color is beautiful?

If I had used an ISO of 100, I would have needed to take a longer exposure to let enough light in. Then, the colors of the sky would have been washed out. 

PHOTO 2: Grand Teton Silhouette by Mary Denman Photography
PHOTO 2: This shot is similar in F-stop (5.6) and ISO 400, but the light was much dimmer because the sun was so far behind the mountains. I had to leave it open for longer to get a good shot. I used 1/10 of a second for the speed. The color isn't as intense as PHOTO 1 because of the slower speed.

(Note: I don't recommend this speed without a tripod. I have really steady hands and have learned how to brace myself.)

I also could have used an ISO of 1600 to get a faster shot. But I had it on 400 moments earlier when there was enough sunlight and just kept shooting. 

TIP 1: In dimming light, use a higher ISO to capture what available and disappearing light you have. You can extend your shooting time with a higher ISO like 400 - 1600.  

PHOTO 3: Aquarium silhouette by Mary Denman Photography

PHOTO 3: On to my favorite! Because most of the light was coming from the top of the tank, that dictated that I use a fast film speed. So I put my ISO on 1600. By using an Aperture of f/3.5, that let in as much light as the shutter could. Then, I had to brace my arms against my body and hold steady for 1/13 sec. 

TIP 2: You can learn to brace yourself to handhold slower speeds in darker conditions. Either brace your camera against a solid object or tuck your elbows into your side to help hold your camera steady. While there are formulas for determining precisely how slow a shutter speed you can handhold according to your focal length, I can tell you that I can handhold fairly steady down to 1/10 of a second with bracing. Most people can handhold to 1/25 sec. 

PHOTO 4: Sunrise silhouette by Mary Denman Photography
PHOTO 4: In this picture I used ISO 100. I was photographing a rising sun. It was getting brighter by the second so I had to use ISO 100.
A higher ISO would have completely washed out the color completely. 

PHOTO 5: Silhouette by Mary Denman Photography

PHOTO 5: I wanted the washed out effect in this picture. Because I included the bright sun so prominently in the photo, it washed out the color and silhouetted boardwalk.

It was taken only moments after photo 4.

TIP 3: In bright light conditions, use a lower ISO like 100 - 200 for silhouettes. 

TIP 4: In order to take a silhouette shot with a point and shoot, try and focus on the brightest part of the photo. This means depressing the button that you take the picture with half way down. Now you can see where the camera is focusing by where the red dot or dots are. Shift where you're focusing until you get the meter (red dots) to read the brightest part of the shot. Then, while holding it halfway down, you can recompose your shot. 

For BLOGGERS: As you practice photography, you'll feel more comfortable using your own images for your blog. This is great for a couple of reasons. 

1) Your own photography can help you with the creative side of your blog. Think content! Either your photos can inspire or illustrate your posts. Both are valuable. 

2) Your photography can help you avoid copyright infringements. This is real and can be a huge deal. Just because you see an image on the internet does not make it free! By using your own pictures, you can avoid this all together. 

CHALLENGE: Go grab you camera and try this. If it's at night, put something in front of a lamp and practice. Or, practice with today's sunset! 

Hope these tip helps. 

Keep on clicking! 


TWEETABLE: Using Silhouette in Photography, Part 2 (please click to tweet)


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  1. These are such beautiful photographs. Reading your post, I can see that photography is an art all in itself -- and a bit of a science. Oh my goodness, so pretty!

    1. Thanks Jenni! It really is an art!

      But when you learn the science behind it, the art part gets better! :)

  2. I really need to start planning some practice on my photography. Your tips are awesome.
    Thank you so much for sharing them!