Harp Portraits – Silhouette

When my sister asked me to photograph her and her harp together, I jumped at the opportunity. I love working with family because it gives me the chance to try something new with lighting, and they are almost always on board with humoring me and my crazy attempts. For this session, one of the techniques I decided to try was silhouetting the subject.

For starters, I knew I needed to take these photographs during the Golden Hour. This is the last hour before sunset, or the first hour after sunrise. Since I am not an early riser, I knew it had to be during sunset.

If I had tried this photo much earlier or after the sun had set, it would have been difficult to see the contrast between the subject and the background.

Copyright Emily Straw Photography, LLC

Copyright Emily Straw Photography, LLC

Next, I knew I needed to take this shot in an open space with lots of the visible sky. I have a location I love to shoot at, with a big lake and mountains in the background, without a lot of buildings and traffic in between.

Copyright Emily Straw Photography LLC

Copyright Emily Straw Photography LLC

Next, I needed to set my camera correctly. For this shot, I knew I needed to greatly underexpose and I had to use Manual Mode. I set my ISO at 100 not only to create the highest quality image I could, but also to let very little light inside. I set my shutter speed to 1/160, if I had set it faster I would have missed out on the ambient light from the sunsight. Finallly, I set my aperture at f/16. I know the “sweet spot” of a sharp aperture is typically f/8, but I needed to use my aperture to lessen the amount of light entering the camera. 

Camera Settings:

ISO: 100     Shutter Speed: 1/160     Aperture: f/16

I love the effect I was able to create, you can definitely see she is playing her harp and it looks so elegant and refined. The entire image is sharp because of the high f-stop, and the lower shutter speed let in more ambient light. Plus, with the ISO at 100, I didn’t have to do any noise reduction in post processing. In fact, there was very little post processing done in these images. I only did my basic RAW-.jpeg settings of increasing contrast and sharpening, decreased the shadows and increased the highlights a bit, and added a slight vignette. The image in camera was already great, and I loved learning this technique!

Have you ever tried shooting silhouettes? I would love to hear all about it! Please leave a comment and feel free to leave a link to your site. Let me know if you learned something new today! Blessings!

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