How To Create Amazing Silhouette Photos

September 02, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Follow my steps in this blog post for a simple silhouette project for the home.

First, let's talk about the theory of how to get a silhouette in a photo.  The basic concept is to have a very bright background such as sunrise, sunset, bright window, and a subject in front of that bright light source.  Then when taking the photo adjust your camera settings for the bright light in the background.  The subject should then be a silhouette.

In this project, I will also be creating a parallel YouTube video on my YouTube channel.  But not today.  I did not get this video ready yet.  It may be a few weeks, but leave me a comment below if you are interested in a video version for this blog.

Silhouettes of people are probably the most common subject used.  I am going to do that here and I will share some tips on posing for a silhouette.

TIPS

  • Create Gaps
    • Do this with the limbs of the body.  If you have a full-body shot, then make sure there is separation in the legs and with at least one arm.  
    • If you don't create gaps it may not look much different than this:
StickManStickMan
 
Stick people are not good for photos, so make sure you create or wait for the gap(s)
 
  • Side views
    • For full-body and more importantly for the partial body oise (shoulders and head), get a side view.  This will help with the gaps and if it is not the full-body shot you need the side view to get the curves of the face.  Otherwise, we are making stick figures again.
  • Action
    • Get some action such as someone walking or running.  Since you will be exposing to a bright background it is likely you will have a fast shutter speed.  This will probably be fast enough to freeze any human action.
  • Use props
    • In this project I am doing I will be using a window.  So here is a list of some household props to think about.
      • Drinking a cup of coffee
      • Eating a piece of fruit
      • Peaking through blinds
      • Reading a book

Let's Do This

In this section let's get the technical details and steps of how to set this up.  If you have help you can have someone be your model while you take your shots.  However, I tend to do these projects solo, so that is what I will be explaining here.

You will want a sharp silhouette, so starting with an aperture setting of about 5.6.  This will give you some depth of field to have a more forgiving focus point.  Set your ISO to 100 or 200 and your shutter speed to about 1/500 to 1/1000 of a second.  Remember we will be wanting to expose for the background.

Do not use auto, aperture priority, or shutter priority because the camera will try to expose for both and will do a poor job at that.  Your camera is not as good as your eyes and has a much smaller dynamic range for exposure.  The camera can adjust for the subject or the background in this setup, but not both.

Are you in manual mode?  That is where we need to be.  Also, if you have been reading my tips on Mondays, are you shooting RAW, JPEG, or both?  This is a good photoshoot to be in RAW mode to all for post-processing touchups.

The settings I am suggesting are just a starting point not a one setting for all silhouettes.  In some cases, my suggestions won't be close.  What ever settings you end up on, take a few test shots until you are seeing the silhouette you want.

 


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I am glad you found my blog.  I am a photographer with a passion for awesome shots.  I go to great lengths to capture many of my photos.  I will re-visit a location over and over knowing there is a spectacular photo just waiting to be had if I am there at the right time.   I also enjoy finding how to do some abstract projects (check out my time-lapse post) and will be writing about them.

Send me a note via my contact page for some projects you would like to see me try and write about.  I am not afraid to try almost any project.  Doing the obscure forces me to do things that I don't do with the typical photo shoot and helps me learn even more.


 
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