How to Set Up Silhouette Studio Lights

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A photography studio can be set up to silhouette the subject matter, which involves lighting only the background and setting the camera to expose the background only. Create a dramatic silhouetted effect with helpful tips from an award-winning photographer in this free video on photography techniques.

Part of the Video Series: Photography Tips
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Video Transcript

Hello, hello, this is Tom, Tom Sapp Photography, if you want to check me out. Today we're going to talk about how to set up lighting in a studio situation to silhouette your subject. O.k. and the basic principle behind this is you want to light the background. It's really that simple. If the background's lit and there's no light on the subject then you're going to be silhouetting the subject. However, sometimes you want to get a little bit of detail in there. So you can actually silhouette the subject by lighting the background, exposing for the background basically and then you can put another light on to your subject if you want to get detail in the face that way the rest of the body and the rest of the subject is going to be silhouetted whereas their face still has detail, so you can see the expression. But if you're just looking for a simple silhouette, really all you need to do is back, or light the background. And you can do that by what's called copy standing the background. That's where you set the lights up on either side of the background and simply turn them in to point in to the middle of the frame. If you want a big spot right in the middle and that way it'll kind of fade out towards the end. Or you can use soft boxes, and that way if you take the soft boxes and put them slightly in front of the background, say you have a lot of space between your subject, the background and the camera, if you have a lot of room to work with then you can actually soften that background up and create what's called a little blow back out of the background which wraps around your subject and gives you slight detail in the front of the subject because it is soft, it wraps around but it still going to be a silhouette kind of situation at that point. You're basically back lighting the subject. You can either at that point expose for the subject if you want detail in the subject or you can just expose for the background. And what I mean by that is you want the detail in the background so the light falling on the background is what you're going to be setting your camera for, that exposure. Whereas to get blow back and to get that wrap around effect with the light, you would simply overexpose the background or expose for the skin tone in your subject. O.k., so that is how you silhouette in a studio situation. Thank you so much. My name's Tom Sapp, Tom Sapp Photography, if you want to check me out. Have a great day.


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