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Lighting for Silhouettes?


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#1 James Malamatinas

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Posted 23 September 2012 - 03:15 PM

I'm not too familiar with lighting so this question may seem very basic for this forum, I'm asking it purely from a curious film enthusiast point of view!

What are the basic techniques to getting silhouetted shot, by this I mean a completely dark shape with no illumination at all? Obviously you have to make sure all of the light is coming from behind the subject but is it that easy or are special techniques employed to ensure a sharp, well defined silhouette without any light spill?

From a camera assisting point of view I assume the light behind the subject and the corresponding background has to be bright enough so that when exposed the silhouetted subject is outside the dynamic range of whatever medium you are shooting on? Or with well designed lighting is this not necessary?

I know it's not a unique, or probably difficult technique, it's just something that been on my mind after a few shots in films I've watched recently.

Thanks!
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 23 September 2012 - 04:07 PM

I'm not too familiar with lighting so this question may seem very basic for this forum, I'm asking it purely from a curious film enthusiast point of view!

What are the basic techniques to getting silhouetted shot, by this I mean a completely dark shape with no illumination at all? Obviously you have to make sure all of the light is coming from behind the subject but is it that easy or are special techniques employed to ensure a sharp, well defined silhouette without any light spill?

From a camera assisting point of view I assume the light behind the subject and the corresponding background has to be bright enough so that when exposed the silhouetted subject is outside the dynamic range of whatever medium you are shooting on? Or with well designed lighting is this not necessary?

I know it's not a unique, or probably difficult technique, it's just something that been on my mind after a few shots in films I've watched recently.

Thanks!


The foreground subject just has to be underexposed enough to go black, so maybe five or more stops darker than the background (depends on how light or dark the subject is). It helps to expose the background slightly bright so that you get a good highlight to frame the dark shape again (a white background providing the maximum effect behind a black foreground). If you want the background subject to be about two stops hotter than normal to have detail but feel bright and the subject has to be six stops under to go black, that's an 8-stop difference in light levels but generally you aren't lighting the foreground, you are taking as much light off of it as you can.
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#3 James Malamatinas

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Posted 24 September 2012 - 05:41 AM

Thanks David, another detailed reply, thank you. I thought that would largely be what it was but I thought that perhaps there you may need to set up a lot of flagging to avoid light on the foreground subject and such.
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