How to Photograph Sillouettes

Everyone has seen silhouette photography. They are the ones with a beautifully colored background, and an black figure or object, on top of it. This article will show you how to take those photos, too.


  1. Image titled ChooseSubject Step 1
    Choose your subject - Almost any object can be made into a silhouette, however some are better than others. Choose something with a strong and recognizable shape that will be interesting enough to hold the interest of those viewing your image.
  2. Image titled NoFlash Step 2
    Turn off the flash - If you have your camera in automatic mode your camera will probably want to use its flash - which will ruin the silhouette. You should have as little light on the front of your subject as possible – so the flash has to go.
  3. Image titled LightFmBackground Step 3
    Get Your Light Right - When it comes to lighting your subject you’ll need to throw out a lot of what you’ve learnt about normal photography and think a little backwards. Instead of lighting the front of your subject, in silhouettes you need to make sure that there is more light shining from the background than the foreground of your shot – or to put it in another way – you want to light the back of your subject rather than the front. The perfect light for this is placing your subject in front of a sunset or sunrise – but really any bright light will be able to do it.
  4. Image titled FrameImagePlainBackground Step 4
    Frame your image - Frame your shot so you are shooting with your subject in front of a nice plain, but bright background. Usually the best backgrounds will be a bright cloudless sky with the sun setting. You want to position the brightest light source behind your subject (either so that they hide it or so that its in the background somewhere).
  5. Image titled Uncluttered Step 5
    Make silhouetted shapes distinct and uncluttered - If there is more than one shape or object in the image that you’re going to silhouette, try to keep them separated - i.e., if you are silhouetting a tree and a person don’t have the person stand in front of the tree or even leaning on it as it will change them into one shape and as a result your viewers could be confused about what the shape is. Also when framing you’ll probably want to photograph silhouetted people as profiles rather than looking straight on. This means that more of their features (nose, mouth, eyes) are outlined and they are more likely to be recognized.
  6. Image titled ManualFocus Step 6
    Focusing - In most cases you’ll want the subject which is silhouetted to be the thing that is in focus most crisply. This can mean that the process can be a little tricky as pushing your shutter halfway down to get the metering right also means that you’ll focus on that spot in the background. To get around this you can use two strategies. Firstly if your camera has manual focusing you might want to try that. Pre focus your shot before you meter your shot.
  7. Image titled SmallAperture Step 7
    The other strategy is to use Aperture to maximize your depth of field (the amount of your image that is in focus). Set a small aperture (i.e., a larger number) to increase the depth of field – this means you’re more likely to have a sharper foreground and background in your shots.

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Categories: Photography Lighting