Debunking the Art of the Picture Perfect Silhouette
How did they do that? When I first started getting passionate about photography several years ago, I always wondered how photographers got those really cool silhouette photos. I wanted to learn how to do that! Don’t you!? Would you be amazed if I told you it’s a very simple technique to learn and you could get these types of shots, too? Well, you can! And I’m going to teach you some very basic steps on how to get a silhouette photo of your favorite subject(s) that will be praise worthy!
To achieve a silhouette look, you will need a light source, a subject (or two or three!) and your SLR or DSLR camera. Your light source can be several things, like a flash or even a street lamp, but in the examples I will be showing you, we will be using a setting sun. Here is a diagram of how you should position your subject and yourself to get the shot.
Note that your source of light always needs to be behind the subject. It works best if there are no other light sources around you and your subject other than the main source that is positioned behind your subject. This is one of the most important elements of this type of shot. Typically these types of shots are done at night, outdoors when the sun is low and about to set.
The next important element is to set your camera in a way to ensure that you are not letting a lot of light into the camera itself. That means you will want a low ISO, a faster shutter speed and a smaller aperture. In this example, the sun for my brother’s engagement silhouette photo was my light source. In the first photo that is brighter, my camera settings were ISO 400, f/3.2 and 1/250. To get their silhouetted photo, I kept the same ISO, but adjusted my aperture to f/4.5 and my shutter to 1/800. The faster shutter speed (1/800) was the trick to getting my subjects darkened and then the sun illuminated them from behind just enough so you can see their outlines. Would you believe that this photo was taken a few seconds after the first one! Amazing what a little in-camera adjustment can do!
The last key step in taking a good silhouette photo is to make sure that your subject(s) are positioned in a way to show an interesting outline. The simplest way to achieve this look is by having your subject show their profile side toward the camera. Then show movement between two subjects by asking for a big kiss (like my previous example) or high five! You could also have a single subject face you and then jump up in the air “jumping jack style” for some fun and giggles! Check out this next example of a mom holding her small child. Instead of having them face me head on, I asked them to turn away from me to show their profile side for a special silhouette moment.
I hope this post provided you with some inspiration to get out there and try a couple of these techniques! As most photographers will tell you, practice, adjust, and then practice some more! Enjoy playing with your camera’s settings and best of luck capturing a special silhouette moment very soon!
You might also find this article to be helpful: