Q. How do you make a silhouette picture? The shots I've tried come out with the main subject too light (you can see detail) or the overall picture too dark and muddy looking.
A. A silhouette is the most complete form of contrast you can obtain in a photograph. It's the shape of the subject that tells the story rather than the detail within it. It is the ultimate in back-lighting.
Silhouettes can be dramatic, may look easy to execute, but take care to shoot.
To make a silhouette, you must place the subject between your camera and light source. If you're making people pictures outside, try to keep your camera lower than your subject and use the sky as a background. Expose for the sky, and the foreground will be underexposed enough that it will be in silhouette.
Indoors, anybright light will do the trick, be it a floodlight or a plain table lamp (without a shade). Place the light behind your subject, making sure that it doesn't "peek" out the side. Once again, expose for the background, and the foreground subject will be in silhouette. Be sure to keep the background as light as possible, a light wall rather than a dark one. All this can be done with automatic and well as manual cameras. Just make sure your automatic "reads" the background.
One of my favorite places to make a silhouette is a high-rise construction site. Steel beams, hard-hatted workers and cranes make great subjects. Just expose for the sky behind them and go for it. Remember, the sun will silhouette anything.
IN A FLASH
Q. I have a Minolta SRT200 35mm camera. I'm interested in buying an automatic flash. My previous flash was a Vivitar (the model prior to the 2500). The problems were the following: A, you had to preview your flash photo (to test if the flash was properly set); B, the reset time between uses of flash required you to wait; and C, the batteries appeared to dissipate quickly.
Can you recommend a good flash and what features I should be looking for?
A. You should have no problem getting an automatic flash for this camera. You can buy the new Minolta flash or one made by one of the non- camera companies such as Vivitar or Sun Pack. I would suggest that you take the camera and lens to a good camera store and try some out.
This camera doesn't have a hot shoe, so, since you'll use the external wire connector, you'll have no trouble finding what you want. One tip: Buy a unit that holds four alkaline batteries rather than two. You'll find that your batteries will last many times longer.
Q. I have two Metz flash units with nicad batteries. How do I discharge the remaining shots left in the batteries so I can then charge them fully for the next time?
A. Switch over to manual power and flash the units again and again till they don't flash any more. Don't be afraid of this technique; it's fast and effective.
You have the correct idea. Remember, that if you use those nicads up fully, they'll keep a charge longer.
Q. Are you aware of any camera shows in the area where one may buy, trade or sell used equipment, especially with other amateur photographers? I have a few quality items I'd like to dispose of, plus, perhaps, upgrade what I now use.
A. I don't know of any shows, but your letter made me curious. I have been talking to people in the retail business as well as cameramen from the area. They all seem interested, but I drew blanks. Yet, I remember that this type of swap meet used to exist, in Baltimore and somewhere in Pennsylvania. Anyone out there know of such a show? Write and tell me so I can pass on the information, and we'll all go. What a great weekend trip.
Carl Kramer, former director of photography for The Washington Post, will try to answer your photography questions in his column, but cannot reply individually. Send your questions to: Carl Kramer, c/o Weekend, The Washington Post, 1150 15th Street NW, Washington DC 20071.