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Contre-Jour — 5 Simple Steps To Add Drama To Your Images

Contre-Jour is the French word which means ‘against daylight‘. It refers to the scenario when a photographer takes the shot of the subject placed right in front of the light source. Mostly photographers use daylight usually at morning or evening which allows them to naturally place the subject against the sun-light. The final images that you get using this technique are completely dark with a lot of highlights formed by the light source behind it. This effect is also known as the silhouettes.

How To Achieve Contre-Jour?

  1. Place the subject directly against the light source. Sun-light would be a good choice of light source for the attaining this effect if you are just getting started.
  2. Look into the viewfinder to align and compose the shot.
  3. The subject may not appear silhouetted in the viewfinder. That’s because the eye has a higher dynamic range than a DSLR.
  4. Try setting the aperture smaller, around f/8, this will help in achieving sharp focus.
  5. You are ready to take the shot.

The thing to keep in mind is that you have to expose for the highlights. If you expose for shadows or use a fill-light, it will kill the so-called Contre-Jour effect.

Here are few images illustrating this effect:

The people in this image have not been placed right in front of the light source, however the angle from which the shot was taken created the silhouette effect.

The shadows of the people in this image state the position of the light source. All people have been under-exposed for creating beautiful contre-jour effect.

Feel free to submit your contre-jour/silhouette photographs to our Flickr Group.

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