Exposing For Silhouettes
September 11, 2006
Q) I’m fascinated by strong silhouettes with the sun in the background when it’s partially or totally obscured by foreground objects, such as trees. For example, in your picture of the Baobab tree from Africa at sunset, the tree is dark, yet detail is maintained in the tips of the branches, and there’s beautiful color in the sunset. What’s the secret to maintaining detail, while at the same time obtaining a proper exposure and rich colors? So far I’ve simply been bracketing like crazy and hoping for the best.
U.S. Army, Iraq
A) You have to choose the best compromise between color and detail. You can’t get any detail in the sun, so don’t bother to try exposing for that. Exposing for the foreground will give you a washed-out sky and diminish the impact of the silhouette. So choose a colorful area of the sky, expose based on that, and bracket a half stop over, and a half and a full stop under. Make your choice of the best image either on the light table or the computer.