Stunning silhouettes. Here are 10 easy ways to shoot silhouettes
Landscape Photography
June 28, 2019

Silhouettes are attention seeking, eyeball-grabbing images that deserve mastery. Perfect backlit shots always leave the viewers with a will to come back for more. Silhouette is a name given to such backlit shots. As a result of this backlighting, the subject is actually thrown into complete or partial darkness depending on the type of silhouette. The primary requirement for a silhouette is that the background needs to be much brighter than the subjects in the foreground. Let us take a look at 10 easy ways to create stunning silhouettes…


     Image courtesy: PictureCorrect


  1. Backlighting effect: Place your subject in front of a very bright background. Make sure that you expose for the bright background in order to throw your subject into complete darkness. The shape of the subject needs to be crystal clear, however. Just by following this easy step, you can get your first silhouette.   

  2. The subject strength: The strength of the subject is very crucial in backlit images. The emotions cannot be seen. They need to be enacted. The positioning of your subject thus becomes quite important. Since the entire subject is thrown into darkness, the shape determines everything. You need to create a sense of mystery using the shape of your subject, in order to stand out.                                                                                                                                                              

  3. Focusing: Focus on the subject and not the background. Since the background is lit, we often get tricked into having a nice and complimentary background only. Yes, it is important but never as much as your subject silhouette. The subject needs to be tack sharp! Use manual focusing for shooting silhouettes. In case you are using autofocusing you may want to use the back button focusing method. Since the exposure has to set for the background and not your subject, you will require a separate button for the focusing aspect. This is where the back button focusing comes in handy.                                                                                                          

  4. Partial silhouette indoors: You can easily shoot a silhouette indoor as well. Use the natural light coming in from the windows. Place the subject in front in such a way that it is partially lit by the incoming sunlight. Partial silhouette creates a strong sense of mystery and can look really cool.              

  5. Natural frames: One of the really creative ways to make your silhouettes stand out is by having a natural frame around your subject. Take a look at different structures available nearby that can act as a natural framework for your image.                                                                                                                     

  6. Low angle silhouettes: Low angle shots are used to make the subjects look powerful. With the sense of suspense a perfect silhouette creates, this kind of angle can add a different dimension to the image.                                                                                                                                                                  

  7. The posing techniques: Silhouettes cannot show the emotions since the faces cannot be seen. The emotions need to be enacted. Ask your subjects to perform some sort of acts in order to capture their emotions. Try to fill up your frame with as much action as possible in order to make things interesting. Action silhouettes always convey a better story than a normal still silhouette. Even if you are shooting a conversation, make sure that your subjects are talking through their bodies too.

  8. The background: Once you have your foreground all sorted, it is time to take a look at the background. The background is actually going to add a backdrop to your story. It is important that the background compliments what is going on in the foreground. For example, if you are shooting an animated conversation with all sorts of body movements of your subjects, it is important to have a background that adds to that drama. But your background cannot be distracting. It should not take away even a bit of attention. 

  9. Camera settings: No photography blog can be complete without the recommended camera settings! It is always advised to shoot silhouettes in manual mode. However, in case you are still not comfortable with the manual mode, you may use the assisted modes with the help of camera metering. Avoid using the fully automatic mode. 

  1. Aperture: You can have your F number at f 5.6 and above since you need to have the background in focus as well. Since you will be shooting directly at the sun it is better to have a smaller aperture to reduce any chances of chromatic abnormality. 

  2. Shutter speed: Shutter speed plays a normal role in silhouettes. In case of an action shot, use fast shutter speed. 

  3. ISO: Try to keep the ISO as low as possible. Too much of ISO can lead to noticeable grains in the image since the majority of your image will be dark. Dark areas actually make the grains more noticeable.

  4. Metering mode: Silhouettes require exposing for the bright parts of the frame. Spot metering is advised. Keep the spot on the brightest part of the frame and meter accordingly. Once that part is properly exposed, the rest of the image will obviously be underexposed. This will throw your subject into darkness, thereby creating the silhouette. In case you are looking to shoot partial silhouettes, you may use the evaluative metering as well if you find that comfortable.


  1. Post processing: This is an integral part of your silhouette creation. Increase the contrast first. Remember, this must be the first step when you are processing your silhouette since this is a game of contrasts. Increase the blacks slightly if required. Decrease the highlights and try not to disturb the shadows. Good post processing skills are required to bring the best out of your silhouettes.


Like most other genres of photography, silhouettes require a lot of practice to master. No matter where you are, you will always get opportunities to shoot backlit images. Use your next family vacation at the beach to practice silhouettes of all the different kinds. Backlighting can be used to create a lot of jaw-dropping images. With the set of tips given above, the ball is now in your court!


Landscape Photography
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