A Showcase of Silhouette Photography

March 1, 2013 · 1 comment

in Inspiration

To create images with drama, impact and a sense of story, you should explore photographing silhouettes. Silhouettes obstruct the view of the subject of the photograph, which is usually a person, and this allows the viewer to project some elements of the story onto the image. For example, the viewer has to decide what he or she thinks the subject is feeling or the reason that person is in that place at that moment because crucial details like facial expressions or clothing are often impossible to make out.

Taking a silhouette photograph is fairly simple. You only need to find a strong source of light and place the subject in front of that light. Because it is so simple to take a silhouette photograph, you need to think more about the subject of the image than the technical aspects of the lighting and exposure of the camera.

Choosing and Framing The Subject

Consider first the shape of the subject. Because the subject will not be able to grab anyone’s interest with colour, texture or other visual cues, you’ll have to rely on its shape to make a compelling image.

Try to ensure the image is in front of a plain, bright background. If the background is not sufficiently bright or if the light shifts constantly, the silhouette could be lost amongst a darker background.

If you want more than one thing to be the subject of your photo, try to keep them separate. Since they will both be cast in shadow, it will be impossible to tell where one thing ends and the other begins, and it will be hard to tell what the subject of the photograph is.

Finally, silhouette photographs of people usually work best when the people are in profile. This allows some measure of identifying features, like the shape of the nose and chin, to be seen, which makes the subject more interesting to viewers.

Some Technical Aspects

Though most of the work of making a compelling silhouette photo is in the choosing and framing of the subject, there are some technical aspects to keep in mind.

First, make sure that your flash does not go off. You may need to trick your digital camera’s flash setting by pointing your camera at the brightest point in view, then pressing the button halfway down. This essentially tells your camera that you want to focus the photo there, and it will adjust its settings for such a bright shot. Keeping the button halfway down, move the camera so that the shot you want is now in view. Take the picture, and you should have tricked your camera into not using the flash. If you can use manual settings, start with the settings the automatic setting suggests, then experiment with aperture and shutter speed until you get the image you want. If you want to make the subject darker, for example, try slowing down the shutter speed a stop or two.

Make sure that the subject of the photograph is in focus most clearly. A clean, strong line surrounding the thing in silhouette will make the photograph that much more striking. You should either manually set the focus before metering the shot, or you should set a small aperture to increase the depth of vision and ensure the foreground is sharp.

Keep all these tips in mind, and you should be able to produce some gorgeous images like the ones below.

C. Frank Starmer
Gwen and James Anderson
Slimmer Jimmer
Earth Touch Admin
Mr Hayata Michael Sweet Buster Brown Rajesh Vihayarajan Kol Tregaskes Pink Sherbet Photography BlueRidgeKitties
Martin Tomic


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Claire writes for Printer Inks. Claire is a budding photographer and enjoys travelling and taking photos of new and interesting places.

Claire has written 6 awesome articles for us at Photoble

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