In January 2022 I started experimenting with Silhouette photography as a little photography project. The project provided me with photographic opportunities that I otherwise would not have thought about. Moreover, during the winter the sky’s light can be dramatic, providing some great opportunities for Silhouette photography, adding a sense of mystery to images, with the dark outlines that can create their own unique story.
Our eyes can easily recognize a person standing against a sunset sky, but when you take a photo of the same scene, you can get something entirely different with some thought and practice.
As long as the source of light is located behind your photographic subject and you use your shutter speed accordingly, you can keep the subject in shadow which will automatically turn an image into a silhouette. Shooting outdoors, it’s essential that the sun is relatively low above the horizon, which is why sunsets, sunrises and winter days at higher latitudes are perfect for silhouette photography
Below are a few tips that you may find useful in relation to silhouette photography:
Try to find interesting and unique subjects.
Whilst it’s easy to take silhouette images, it can be difficult to make a silhouette image look good unless you can find interesting photography subjects and locations.
Apart from people, birds, trees and man-made structures can work really well for silhouette photography. I particularly like taking silhouette images of people because it often leaves the viewer curious about who the person in the silhouette might be and what they might look like.
Pay attention to the outline of your subjects
When you’re photographing a person’s silhouette, it doesn’t matter what their facial expression is because you’ll only see their outline. On the other hand, the outline itself can make a huge difference, so you must learn to look at your photography subjects in terms of their outline. As you try to make the best possible silhouettes of human subjects, you’ll notice that minor things like the position of their limbs can make a massive difference.
If your subjects are moving, try taking a series of images, you can then choose the exact right moment later. Also, avoid overlapping subjects such as people standing in front of each other. Because you can only see their combined outline
Try to capture movement
Try to capture movement in your silhouette photos whenever possible. When you’re shooting silhouettes, the shutter speed will typically be very fast, allowing you to capture short and unique moments that would likely get blurred in most other conditions.
Set exposure manually
By setting your exposure manually, you will have more control in relation to creating silhouette images. If your ISO is set to auto turn it off.
Look for interesting sky’s and clouds
It is particularly important in silhouette photos to be aware of the background that you place your silhouettes against. When using the sky as the background, look for interesting patterns and formations in the clouds to see how you can juxtapose them with your silhouette to create a truly unique photo.
Emphasize silhouettes in post-processing
While entire books could be written about post processing, it’s important that your silhouette still stands out afterwards. There are numerous ways to emphasize a silhouette, increasing contrast to make the silhouettes stand out more is a good starting point.
A Few Location ideas
Outdoor walking locations with ridges such as Mam Tor.
Brimham Rocks, lots of interesting shapes and heights and platforms for people to stand on or against.
Piers and Jetty’s can provide excellent platforms and interesting shapes.