Top Tips for Photographing Silhouettes

There are many different techniques and skills you can acquire through practising photography, whether it’s using special effects in post-production or getting creative with the set-up of your shots. If you’re still quite new to photography, you’ll no doubt be getting to grips with the different settings available on your camera and enjoying seeing the world through your lens.

When it comes to looking for new techniques to try out, a photo sharing platform can be a great place to start for inspiration. One such effect that can help you to create stunning and striking images is the use of silhouettes. Here we take a look at what it takes to achieve great silhouette photography.

What is silhouette photography?

A silhouette is typically created by placing a subject in front of a bright background, which makes the subject dark. This means the detail of the subject disappears into the darkness, leaving only a shape or outline. This can create a minimalist style that focuses on contrast and shape, leaving the detail up to the viewer’s imagination.

Silhouette photography can be used in a number of instances for this reason. In many cases, images of silhouettes result in a very dramatic yet mysterious effect, and can be open to interpretation.

Choosing your subject

The subject of your photo can be anything, but in most cases you’ll find silhouette photos include people. It’s important that whatever you pick has a strong and identifiable shape, as the viewer can’t use any detail to determine what it is. People are popular because the profile of a human body is very obvious, but you can also use buildings, trees or other such objects.

If you do choose to use a person in your image, aim to set your shot so it shows the person’s profile. This way, you can see the outline of their face and body. If you are using more than one person, make sure there is space between them or you’ll find they merge too much together in your finished image and it can become indistinguishable.

Get your lighting right

Silhouette photography is all about the light and the effect it has on your image. You can achieve a great image by making sure you are stood in the right place in relation to the light source. 

It’s important to make sure there is a strong light source directly behind your chosen subject. The sun is the easiest light source to choose, but consider shooting at sunrise or sunset when the sun is lower and will be directly behind your subject, not above it.

Most of all, remember to turn off the flash on your camera. The flash is designed to help you bring out the details of your image, but this will brighten your subject and ruin the silhouette effect. You want your subject to be purposefully under-exposed so it appears dark against the background.

Check your positioning

As much as your photography will be focused on your silhouette, the rest of the image is just as important and it can be helpful to double check your positioning and the background before you take the photo! 

The background should be uncluttered and kept as simple as possible, as this can give the maximum impact to the subject of your image with no distractions. While your subject will typically be positioned between the camera and the light source, you can choose how much of the light you want to include.

For example, many silhouette photos will have the subject just off-centre, showing some of the sunlight behind. Other images will have the subject directly in front, blocking out the light source. Both can create beautiful effects for your photos.