Saturday, March 26, 2011

How To Take Silhouette Shots


We live in a somewhat brown little town in Texas.  I love where we live, but sometimes the scenery around me isn’t very inspiring.  It isn’t the most photogenic place.  But, we do have GORGEOUS sunsets, so I find myself taking lots of pictures of the sky.  Hence, my love for silhouette photography. 
Taking silhouette photos is really pretty easy actually.  You really only need three things: a well lit background, a subject, and a camera.  You don’t even have to have an expensive camera, pretty much any camera will take these kinds of pictures. 
First step: turn your flash off. 
Second step: frame your shot.  This means making sure your subject is as back-lit as possible by placing them directly in front of a bright light source (the best time for these photos is sunrise or sunset). 
Third step: focus your camera on the brightest light source in the shot (but don’t blind yourself looking at the sun through your lens okay?).  Then, shift your camera slightly so that the subject is framed in the shot just how you want it.  Point and shoot camera’s usually have an auto-focus which allows you to focus your shot by holding the shutter-button half down.
Fourth step: take the picture. 
It might take a bit of practice.  If your subject isn’t dark enough in the photo, no worries!  You can always adjust the exposure later while editing. 

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Silhouettes are some of my favorite pictures to edit because the simplicity of the subject allows you to play with all kinds of fun backgrounds without distracting too much from the focus of the shot.

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Something to keep in mind: silhouettes obviously don’t pick up on the detail that normal shots do, so you want to make sure that your subject is recognizable.  For example, a silhouette of boy hugging a tree might just look like a shapeless blob.  Just thought I’d throw that out there for all you folks who like to take pictures of people hugging trees.  I know it sounds simple, but sometimes poses that really work for a regular shot, will not work as silhouettes. 
That being said, there are lots of poses that work especially well for silhouette shots.  I like photos that capture movement and energy.  These kind of shots are especially dramatic when you can only see the outline of your subject. 
In an attempt to get a more interesting shot, I told Spencer to do something dramatic with his arms.  This is what he came up with:


See?  The YMCA is INFINTELY more dramatic when captured in silhouette form right? 
Happy snapping!


  1. Oh Spencer and the YMCA. Haha. Makes me miss you guys. Almost as much as finding the H.R. Puffinstuff coloring book the other day. Somehow it didn't get thrown out with the rest of the stuff we were sorting though. :) Hahahahaha.

    And, of course, awesome pictures. I'll have to give these a try someday when I actually take pictures from places other than my balcony. :)

  2. I tried to comment the other day but I guess it didn't work. I think these photos are so pretty and fun!!! You are so talented and inspiring Whitney!

  3. how did you put the hearts in the backgrounds? I've seen other people do special things with their lenses to get that effect, but that was with a Christmas tree and an actual part of the picture. How did you do it with editing?