Étienne de Silhouette may not have been known for his generosity as French Minister of Finance in the mid-18th century, but the aesthetic of the sparse contemporary art form that took on his name (in mocking tribute) remains an exciting well from which to draw technical inspiration. Of course, it’s much easier to let the light do the “cutting out” of your subject from your photograph than it would be to cut them out of paper by hand!
Macey Sigaty, a.k.a. Sigatree Photography, is a particularly enthusiastic fan of silhouettes, so I asked her what makes them special.
“Obviously, from a technical perspective I like the contrast. But I also like that it boils a person down to their essence—that someone can be so identifiable as themselves even with the bare minimum of detail.” In a way, it’s like painting a picture of a forest by getting rid of all the trees! This also leaves a lot open to interpretation, encouraging active participation by your viewer.
“On the other hand,” she added, “as a landscape photographer I don’t necessarily like focusing on people. Using silhouettes lets me add a subject to the photo, without turning it into a portrait.” (You can see a good example of this here.)
For me, the appeal of silhouette photography is its deconstructionist element. Almost like those macro-photography “puzzles” in kids’ magazines (“Can you guess what these items are?”), forcing everyday items into the abstract denies a viewer’s brain its autopilot patterns when interpreting the photo.
So, next time Golden Hour rolls around, try using its light to darken your subject rather than highlight it, and let us see your results! Post ’em to our Facebook or on Instagram with the tags #mymikescamera #halfweekhomework, and let’s see who can make the most breathtaking silhouette.