Sunday, February 18, 2007


sil-hou-ette(SIL oo ET)n. 1. a profile drawing or portrait having its outline filled in with uniform color, commonly black. 2. the outline of a solid figure.

Easily the most recognizable of the 15 compositional elements, silhouette is a wonderful technique to accentuate subject lines and shapes, create drama and establish mood, or to target a specific focal point in a photograph.
A silhouette is formed when a subject is intensely backlit, however strong side-lighting or subjects obscured in shadow with openly lit backgrounds can produce the same result. Naturally, proper exposure of the highlight area is critical to ensure this inherently contrasty effect.

Here are three variations of silhouettes from my photo essay/book project--Fly Fishing Oregon in Black and White:
Example 1 - Exposing for the tying lamp bulb emphasizes the hair of this rabbit strip trout fly.
Example 2 - Exposing for the sky and clouds intensifies the arc of this taut fly rod.
Example 3 - Exposing for the canyon background, with the subject in shadow from the opposite canyon wall, directs the viewer's eye to the netted trout.
If the medium is the message, and minimalism is the goal, try a silhouette--then you'll discover less truly is more.