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Do a Test Run for Important Portrait Shoots

Dave Black discusses setting up shoots in advance

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3.1 Rating
How to Film Using Autofocus, Rack Focus and Manual Focus Techniques

Focusing tips for HDSLR video shooting

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Creatively Photographing Objects Up Close

The idea that less is more can be applied to the subject matter in your photos.

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4.5 Rating
HDSLR Video Tutorial: Getting Started with Your D-Movie Camera

Getting started with HDSLR video

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Using Auto FP High-Speed Sync to Illuminate Fast Sports Action

Dave Black on using high-speed flash sync for sports…

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Capturing or Freezing Motion in Photos

Learn how to freeze the motion in an action scene or capture a blur to show…

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Better Sports Photography

Which settings should you use depending upon which sport you're photographing

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Photograph the Classic Holiday Light Bokeh Effect

Tips for shooting lights as soft globes of color

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5 Easy Composition Guidelines

Follow 5 easy tips for better photo compositions

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Shooting Abstract Photos that Make the Viewer Guess

Sometimes showing just a hint of your subject can be more compelling…

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Scene Recognition System and Advanced SRS

Nikon's SRS and Advanced SRS recognize the position, color, tones and…

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Taking Great Portraits with COOLPIX Cameras

See how COOLPIX technologies let you take great portraits

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How to Photograph a Lunar Eclipse

Learn the techniques needed to shoot lunar eclipses from Mr. Eclipse, Fred Espenak

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Shooting with Remote Cameras

Andrew Hancock discusses the art of shooting sports with remote cameras

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How to Choose Your Next DSLR Lens

What to look for when choosing your next lens for your DSLR

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4.6 Rating
The Challenge of Bird Photography

Moose Peterson tells why photographing birds in the field is well worth the challenge.

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Shooting the Full Moon with the COOLPIX P900

Using the Moon Scene Mode and 83x zoom of the COOLPIX P900

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Speedlight Tutorial: Artificial Sunlight Technique

David Tejada uses Speedlights to add a late afternoon look to a scene

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What is your KeyMission?

Jerry Ghionis on the KeyMission 360 camera

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Through the Eyes of a Child

Simple tips for children to learn to take better photos

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Joe McNally: Shooting a Portrait with Speedlights

Joe McNally sets up a portrait on location using Speedlights

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Getting Started: How to Hold Your D-SLR Camera

Getting sharper, more in-focus pictures can be as simple as learning how…

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Online Exclusive: Slow Motion

Add variety to your videos with slow motion footage

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Deanne Fitzmaurice

Photojournalist and filmmaker Deanne Fitzmaurice is a Nikon Ambassador. Learn more about her…

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How to Shoot a Silhouette

Silhouettes make for dramatic photographs, relying on shape and oftentimes vibrant, saturated color to tell a story. Photographers use the silhouette to convey drama, mystery or mood in an image, but you can also create silhouettes when shooting video. The subject of a silhouette can be people, animals or objects, identifiable by their outline or black shape against a colorful or well-lit background. The stronger the shape of the subject, the more successful the image will be. While a silhouetted subject can show some detail, the less detail visible will add more drama to the photograph.

The key to a successful silhouette is backlighting. To create a silhouette, place a subject against a background and expose for the background, leaving the subject in shadow. Sunsets are great for silhouettes, because of their vibrant colors. You can also create silhouettes indoors by making sure that there is more light on the background, which you’re exposing for, than on the subject. Another way to shoot silhouettes is in the studio. Set up lights to backlight a subject, against a white background, and add colored gels to the lights, for a fun look.

When photographing a silhouette of a person, have your subject wear tight clothes instead of loose fitting clothing and shoot them in profile. The profile of a person whether a full-length or close-up shot of their face, will be more recognizable than if they were facing the camera. This is because there will be little to no light on the subject so it is the shape of the person that will tell the viewer they’re looking at a person.

Expose for the background

Whether the background is a colorful sunset, idyllic scene in a park, or stark white wall in a studio, you want to meter and correctly expose for the background, which will place your subject in shadow. Digital cameras make it easier to successfully shoot silhouettes because you can see on the LCD exactly how the image looks, and adjust your exposure accordingly.

If your camera has Active D-Lighting, make sure to turn it OFF because Active D-Lighting will try to force the camera to correctly expose for the subject that is in shadow. You can also use Exposure Bracketing to shoot a series of shots with varied exposures, and pick the best one.


Where to place the focus

The ideal spot to focus on is the subject, however since the subject of a silhouette is in little to no light, the camera may have difficulty locking on the focus. In this case, manually focus the camera on your subject. You can also try to focus on the edge of the subject, where there will be more of a contrast difference (between the darkened subject and the brighter background).

Use as small an aperture as possible, which will help ensure your subject is sharp.

Some new COOLPIX cameras even have a Silhouette Scene Mode to make it effortless to capture silhouette images. (Check your camera’s manual to see if your camera has the feature.)

You can also choose to further tweak the photo in software later, adding more contrast to make the silhouette seem more dramatic than it may have been while you were shooting.

Whether the background is a colorful sunset, idyllic scene in a park, or stark white wall in a studio, you want to meter and correctly expose for the background, which will place your subject in shadow.

5 Tips to remember:

  • Pick a strong subject, with an interesting shape for a silhouette.

  • Meter and expose for the background, leaving the subject in shadow.

  • Focus manually or focus on the edge of the subject where the contrast between subject and background is greatest. Use a small aperture when possible for greater depth of field.

  • If your camera has Active D-Lighting, make sure it is turned OFF.

  • When photographing a silhouette of a person, position them in profile.

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