Photos composed using silhouettes are shrouded in drama, mystery, and more than a drop or two of romance. I love silhouette pictures for what you don’t see as much as for what you do; It’s the lack of light that ignites the imagination. It isn’t hard to take silhouette photos; it just takes an understanding of the elements needed to make them pop!
The First Step in Learning How to Take Silhouette Photos
When you take a photo of a subject with the light behind them (backlit)––say on a sunny day––your subject will appear in shadow. That’s because the camera can’t set the exposure for both the subject and the light simultaneously the way our eyes can.
It’s the reason every time you try to capture your friends in front of a beautiful sunset; it never quite looks the way you saw it.
Focus on Your Subject, Expose for the Background
Now that you understand backlighting, you’ll understand why the key to creating a great silhouette photo is focusing on your subject, as I did here on the men and the scaffolding in a temple in Myanmar, and exposing for the background, which is the light streaming in the background.
Refining the Silhouette
Take Control of the Exposure
Your subject is backlit and in shadow, but you want it to be completely opaque, not something muddled in-between. Your camera can only do so much. This is why you need to take control of the exposure to make the most of your silhouette.
If you photograph on automatic, it’s a good time to learn how to adjust your settings manually. For example, if you touch the screen to focus on an iPhone, you’ll see a little sun icon pop up. That represents your exposure. Dragging your finger up or down will lighten or darken your image. Check your camera’s manual for how to do it yourself.
Once you’ve figured out how to play with the exposure, slowly reduce it (i.e., decrease the light) until you achieve your desired result.
What Subjects Make a Good Silhouette?
When thinking about how to take silhouette photos, any subject can work––buildings, people, wildlife, nature––as long as the outline is clear, interesting, and recognizable. In this situation, expressions are irrelevant, colors worn or type of clothes mean little.
Pay attention to clean lines. If you’re photographing more than one thing, make sure outlines don’t overlap in weird places, or you’re back to that blob again.
Best Times of Day for Outdoor Silhouette Photography
The best outdoor silhouettes are taken around sunrise and sunset when the sun is relatively low on the horizon to ensure full backlighting. It also doesn’t hurt that sunrise and set typically deliver beautiful colors and backgrounds.
Minimize Sun Blowout and Flares
Photographing at sunrise or sunset also means you’re pointing your camera toward the sun. Great for shadows, not great if the light is so bright, it overexposes parts of your image or casts flares. An easy fix is to hide the sun behind your subject: a person, a tree limb. You get my drift.
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50 thoughts on “How to Take Silhouette Photos You’ll Love”
Everything is so incredible and so much better than I could have ever imagined. I’m honestly speechless.
I’m glad you liked the piece!
All pics are very nice! You’ve done an amazing job..
Thank you so much. I appreciate the kind words.
Very useful reminder and great images to illustrate the points. Thanks Susan.
I’m so glad you found it useful.
Many thanks for letting me know.
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wow all images is very nice
All images are very Nice Thanks For Sharing wonderful blog.
Thank you so much!
These all pictures are amazing. I especially love the Four photograph!!
Thank you very much!
Wow!!!!! Awesome pics….
Everyone silhouette drop of the drama and mystery about and then two of romance. Moreover, shoot silhouettes the subjects light darkness that ignites of imagination.
Feels like im travelling…love the photos..Amazing!
Stunning photographs, feeling inspired ready for our trip around the world next year. Would you mind if I reblogged your post?
Thank you! Yes, absolutely reblog it. I appreciate the compliment.
Btw.. can I come with you on your trip around the world. 😉
Yes Susan, of course!!
Yes Susan, of course, although I may have you taking all the photos. 😉
Wow!! These pictures are bust amazing. I especially love the second photograph!!
Thank you! I’m so glad you enjoyed the piece. 🙂
Just fantastic! Amazing shots!!!
What a spectacular collection of silhouettes this is! Super fun to check them.
Thank you! Glad you enjoyed it. 😁
Beautiful, Susan. Lovely work.
Each photograph is beautiful in its own way. I don’t think I can choose a favorite! But….. The one of the Ubein bridge keeps coming back to my mind….wondering where all the people were going and where are they coming from….what are their lives like……many unanswerable questions…….LOVE IT!
Thank you for your kind words Angelyn. It’s funny, I do the same thing, imaging where the people in photos were going, what they were thinking. I think it connects me more with the image.
Absolutely lovely photographs and silhouettes. Each one highlights the beauty of the people and the venue, tells a story, yet provides peace. Just a quick note about the third one at Ding Darling, there are no egrets in that photo–there’s an ibis and shorebirds. Many thanks for this gallery of delights.
Fabulous and amazing photos you captured in your lenses.
Thank you! I’m so happy you think so. Have a great job. 🙂
🙂 let’s travel togetheeeer!
Maybe someday! 🙂
Wow! One more beautiful than the other!
Thank you! I love photographing silhouettes. If you like these you might also like the set I did of Namibia… https://theinsatiabletraveler.com/2015/06/01/picture-perfect-namibia-embracing-the-silhouette/
That’s a great collection.
Hi Lyle –
Thank you very much.. I have a “thing” for silhouettes..obviously. 🙂
I love the 3rd photo! (I love them all.) Great timing!
Thanks, Lesley! Appreciate your stopping by the blog. Have a great day.
A beautiful set. Favorites are 9, 10, 14.
Hi Denise- Thanks for stopping by and thank you for the kind words as well. Have a wonderful day!
Yes I want to go! Everywhere. Thanks for the photos, they look amazing
Daniel- thank you so much for taking a look. I’m really happy you were inspired. Please come back again!
Great pics Susan! /Anders
Thank you so much Anders!
Thanks! So glad you like. 🙂