In the area of photography, a silhouette is defined as an outline that appears dark against a light background. More specifically, it is where your subject appears as a plain black shape against a brighter background. It is an artistic photography expression that many photographers like to refine and perfect in their images. This effect can be achieved with any bright light source with the sun being the most common. In a sunset silhouette photo, the sunlight in the background is exposed correctly forcing everything else in the photo to be underexposed causing the effect.
When you are preparing to take a silhouette image, there are many things to keep in mind. These tips are equally effective for both digital and film photography. First of all, you need to make sure that there is not too much light on your subject, even if it is being reflected on to your subject the stray light will ruin the effect. If there is not enough light in the background, your subject will appear grey instead of black. The effect is just multiplied when you have multiple colors of bright lights in the background. Some photographers focus on artificial lights, others focus on the sun at certain times of the day, the possibilities are endless.
I usually take my silhouette images when the sun is just above the horizon. I prefer the time around sunset because the sun causes the sky to be brighter than everything else for greater contrast. Another technique I use is to align the sun directly behind the subject so it causes a glow effect around the main subject. I usually use a relatively big subject so it creates a more drastic effect then a small insignificant subject.
I always use a narrow aperture (high f/stop) so the camera captures the whole scene with a high depth of field so everything is in focus. I usually use the aperture manual mode on my camera so I can control what the aperture will be and then the camera automatically selects the right shutter speed necessary for the photo. If you are trying to create the effect with a point-and-shoot camera make sure you compose the photo with the background light by pointing the camera at the background. If you compose the image by pointing the camera at your dark subject, then the background will be over-exposed and you will not end up with a silhouette.
Check your underwater camera housing to see how many feet it is rated (its maximum working depth underwater). Will the camera be adequately and safely protected during use in rugged environments? Does it have injection-molded plastic? Is it constructed to take the rigorous environments that underwater photographers and outdoor photographer’s experience, and will it protect digital cameras in these demanding activities?
Just as most underwater video manufacturers limit their design efforts to Sony cameras, the majority of still housing systems are built around the Nikon line. Although Canon has increased in popularity with topside professionals, few underwater housings are offered for Canon systems.
For your underwater camera housing, you will want something durable. It should be made from machined aluminum, black type III ‘hard’ anodize finish, and sealed with a nickel-acetate process, have no sticking buttons or faulty electronic controls, use quality optics with clarity, sharpness and no vignetting (cutoff dark corners) to spoil your images. It should allow you to change lenses underwater from wide to macro with a MultiPort and include lighting options.
Outdoors, sunlight shows crisp edges, creates dimensional shapes, reveals textures and outlines silhouettes. The color differences between direct sunlight and light from the open sky intensifies the feeling of outdoors, though this effect must be used with discretion. A cloudy day usually portrays a somber mood, lighting everything with a top-weighted blue cast.
A warming filter changes the blue mood to one of happier emotions.
Indoors, the light from a window is very shape-revealing in nature. Care must be taken to provide light on the shadow side in order to balance the picture. A blue sky as a source must be warmed up with a filter (80A) when using outdoor film. Sunlit clouds are a perfect source of light for your window pictures. Incandescent light is much warmer and must be used carefully. When incandescent light is used, a cooling filter (81B) will prevent the photograph from appearing too orange. Fluorescent lights are lacking in red may not portray skin tones properly.
The width of the light source must be taken into consideration. The widest possible light source is the wrap-around effect of a cloudy day at the beach. Round shapes are flattened, detail is obscured, and areas of similar color are often presented monochromatically. A point source like the sun or a light bulb throws sharp shadows and will emphasize small detail. Every effect of light can be used as a tool to further the aims of the artist. If there is a special effect which is necessary to the message within the composition, the photographer must wait for that perfect time and weather. Medium wide sources of light are desirable for their flattering, yet shape-revealing effect on the human face.
Practically, when outside, look for a white wall sit by the sun with a shaded area nearby. A low reflector like a sunlit patch of concrete, a beach, a light colored car, or anything with an appreciable area which will reflect light makes a good source of light. Unless wanted, make sure the surface is not too far from white, or the subject will take on that color.
The angle of the light is also important. For faces, the hours between nine AM and one hour before sunset are not the most flattering times. The moments just after sunrise and just before sunset is often referred to as “The magic hour” for the beneficial effect it has on the human face as well as on most other objects. The next time you see an advertisement for a new car, try to ascertain the direction and time of day the photograph was taken. I think you will find that “magic Hour” played an important role.