5 Quick Tips And 3 Free Guides To Mastering Creative Silhouettes

By Federico Alegria / August 3, 2018

Taking beautiful and creative silhouettes is one of those popular and intriguing genres many people entering the amazing world of photography want to master.

I remember the first time I saw a silhouette that was well executed and I tried to replicate something like it. My attempt was awful, but later on, I learned that taking creative silhouettes has more to do with exposure control and subject location than post-processing or artificial lighting.

First thing's first, a silhouette is technically a dark area or shape outlined by its contrast against a much lighter background.

Have you ever noticed how people get too dark when being photographed from the inside of a house against a garden in the background while being framed by a door or a window in the middle of the day? That's basically what you need to arrange when capturing silhouettes, but of course, there are some techniques that will help you to achieve them in a more artistic and creative way.

5 Quick Tips To Creative Silhouettes

So here are 5 quick tips to get you started:

  1. Choose A Bold Subject
    • For the best results, choose a subject that is simple, but powerful or aesthetically pleasing. While anything can be a silhouette, a simple, bold form can give you the best, most impactful results.
  2. Your Light Source Needs To Be Behind Your Subject
    • Your light source needs to be directly behind your subject – you don't want any light on the front. The sun is obviously the easiest light source to use – but you can use a flash, as long as it is behind your subject.
  3. Pose Your Subject In An Interesting Way
    • Make sure you pose your subject in a way that ensures that they don't melt into the background – make interesting outlines and shapes with your subject.
  4. Expose For The Background
    • Shoot in manual mode and expose for the background – not the subject
  5. Get Your Focus Sharp
    • Set a small aperture (eg f/8 or f/11) to increase the depth of field, which will increase the odds that your subject is clearly defined

If you are into creative silhouettes, then you definitely need to check out these three free guides from Photzy as these guides will help you to achieve beautiful silhouette images in no time!

Artful Silhouettes

This guide by Teddi Tostanoski will teach you about what actually a silhouette is, and how you can use it as a storytelling element in your photographs. She also shares some tips and tricks to achieve creative silhouettes in non-traditional ways beyond skies and overexposed areas.

Contrast for Creativity

Since silhouettes are all about contrast, this free guide from Teddi is great complementary reading to the Artful Silhouettes guide. Here she talks about how to set up your camera in order to achieve creative and beautiful contrasts right away.

Shooting Silhouettes

Here Jason D. Little shares with us how to shoot silhouettes by also using lighting techniques and post-production. He also shares some inspiration photographs for us to consume, which is a great thing to do as a photographer.

Note: Every lighting situation requires some acute light understanding, and of course, silhouettes are one of those complex lighting situations because you need to expose correctly between the dwelling dark and bright zones of a scene. If you would like to take your photography further, I also encourage you to take some time to Understand Light well.

When working with silhouettes, the main focus should be the contrast between the outlined subject and the bright background, and of course, don't forget to compose creatively by using the rule of thirds or rule of odds.

Good luck with capturing your creative silhouettes and don't forget to post your images to the forum or shark tank for feedback.


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About the author

Federico Alegria

Federico is a documentary photographer and photography educator based in El Salvador. This year his work was featured in Black & White Magazine Issue #125. Check out his photography portfolio.

  • Useful tips for creative Silhouette photography.


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