Experiment with Shadows and Highlights

This tutorial on shadows and highlights is kind of like a reverse silhouette. The other day while getting ready to shoot a video, I had a happy accident. This is what I saw in my viewfinder!

Shadow photo

Camera settings: ISO 200, 1/60 second, f 2.8

Cool eh? You can see that my photo is extremely overexposed in the highlights, yet the shadow is “normally” exposed.

In the video here, I give more examples and have a little fun shooting in “silhouette” mode.

Set up Tips

  • Pick a sunny day
  • Find a textured or interesting background like grass, wood, bricks
  • I found that darker backgrounds (like grass) worked best when starting out
  • Also a flat background works better. For example the grass and paving stones worked better than my vegetable garden.
  • Use Daylight or Sunny White Balance
  • Use Low ISO – Start at 100 or 200. If you’re shooting later in the day you might need to use 400 ISO.

Exposure adjustments Histogram overexposed

  • If the sun is bright and high in the sky, and you’re using a grass background, start with an exposure of 1/60 second and f 2.8 or f4.0 and ISO 200
  • If you can’t get your f-stop that large, then raise your ISO to 400
  • Take a test shot
  • Check your histogram – the histogram here at the right is from the photo above
  • If your highlights are not blown out, your histogram will not be “climbing the wall” on the right side.
  • Add more light so that you are overexposed in the highlights of your photo
  • If you are using auto exposure modes with Exposure Compensation (+/-), try +2 to start but that might not be enough, and many cameras only to to +2 ev, so you’ll have to get in manual mode.
  • If working in manual exposure mode, adjust f-stops and/or shutter speed to add more light.
  • Start with the settings I used above if using your lawn as your background. That should put you in the ball park.
  • Keep experimenting until you get the look you want.

What about Silhouettes?

Making silhouette photos is actually quite similar to this. Here’s a video that shows you how.

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