How to Avoid Your Photo Being a Dark Silhouette

If you've taken photographs that turn out as dark silhouettes with a nicely exposed background, you've got the wrong exposure and it's easy to get it right. This is a common result from excessive backlighting and there are various methods for compensating. The method below assumes you do not have "fill flash" capacity and that your exposure setting is for center of image only, not multipoint exposure metering. On very simple cameras, especially low end digital models, this method should work on the full auto setting (usually a green box on the dial).

Steps

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    Use a camera that allows you to press the shutter button halfway without taking the picture - try it. If you can do this, that's the point where the camera has set the exposure in most "full auto mode" cameras.
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    When the subject (person) comes out too dark, the camera has looked at the light background and set the exposure to capture that instead of your subject. Move in close to your subject so that the camera can't see the light background (light background should not be visible in the viewfinder).
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    If you can't or don't want to go close to your subject - point the camera at the ground IN THE SHADE.
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    Press the shutter button halfway AND HOLD IT THERE.
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    Keep the shutter button half pressed - now move back and frame the picture how you want it to be.
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    Now press the shutter button all the way and take the picture.
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    Your subject will be correctly exposed. The bright background will almost certainly be over exposed - you can't have it both ways!

Tips

  • Look around for a better shooting angle to start with so the sun isn't behind your subject. Try to find an angle where the sun is behind / to the side of the photographer. That way the subjects will be illuminated but not squinting looking into the sun.
  • Snow or the sea will always give you a bright background even if you don't think it will - your eyes will compensate.
  • Another way to compensate if to use a fill flash to properly expose both the background and the foreground object. Many newer cameras do this automatically in full auto mode, others require some set up such as setting the camera to forced flash.

Warnings

  • Anything that is a reflecting surface will give a bright background and mean that you need to use a half-shutter to set the correct exposure.
  • Pressing the shutter halfway down will also lock the focus on most cameras. If you move too close to your subject, when you move back the subject may be blurry.

Article Info

Categories: Photography Lighting