How to Photograph Silhouettes – Updated

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From time to time I take a little time out to go back over old posts to update them. Today I spent a little while reworking one of the early tutorials here at DPS – How to Photograph Silhouettes. I hope you enjoy it (PS: I also started a Silhouettes Assignment over at the forums for you to post your shots in).

I normally talk about the importance of using a flash when taking shots into the sun to give sufficient light to add features to your subject but there are also times when making your subject featureless apart from their outline against a bright background can be most effective – or when in other words silhouette is a worth exploring.

Silhouettes are a wonderful way to convey drama, mystery, emotion and mood to the viewers of your photos and often stand out in an album because of the combination of their simplicity but also the story that they convey. I love them because they don’t give the viewer of a photo everything and leave part of the image up to their imagination to wonder about.

The basic strategy you’ll need to employ in taking silhouette shots is to place your subject (the shape you want to be blacked out) in front of some source of light and to force your camera to set it’s exposure based upon the brightest part of your picture (the background) and not the subject of your image…… Read the rest of this tutorial

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Darren Rowse

is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals.

He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

  • Nice. I’ve got a similar photo to the one in this post.
    Link

  • This is one of my favorite posts. I find the subject matter to be very interesting. It’s funny — it seems like the stuff I like the best is the stuff I’m not really good at. Good reason to keep trying I guess.

  • Fred

    A wonderful site, very helpful. Though all the experts here might having amazing SLRs and DSLRs, the tips you provide are useful for me, eventhough I have a simply Sony DSC P100.

    Thank you guys.

  • Great…. thanks

  • bogart

    I’m just wondering when is the right time of the day to shoot silhouettes?I tried during sunset and it works well. It is also possible during the morning?

  • Nancy M

    I find silhouettes are often useful to get the story image when the light isn’t cooperating. I shot this in the middle of the afternoon. Overhead it was darkly overcast, to the south, behind the City, the sky was brightening. So, I purposed underexposed a stop which serves to saturate the sky colour and darken the silhouette. When I shot a similar composition exposed for the skyline, it was washed out and boring.

  • Nancy M

    Oops! It appears I don’t know how to include an image. Guidance welcomed.

  • I often use the AE Lock (Auto Exposure Lock) feature of my camera when doing silhouettes. I aim at the brightest object in the scene, do a half shutter press, then press the AE Lock button. This tells the camera to remember the exposure for future shots. I then release the shutter button, point the camera at what I want in foucs, do a half shutter press (only the focus is calculated at this time), compose the shot and take the photo.

  • bogart

    It enlightened me now on how to use the AE lock button. I hope with this new discovery I will have a better pictures.

  • bogart

    AE would help me shoot better pictures. In silhouettes is there always a need to underexposed it?

  • Bryan Mamaclay

    Relative to focusing for silhouettes, choosing a wide angle lens (28 mm) especially when metering for the bright highlights will certainly enhance and simplify focusing and obtaining the greatest depth field. Wider angles will generate more distortion but perhaps more creativity too. Otherwise, there’s nothng wrong with using a telephoto and having a soft edge on the silhouette.

  • meng

    gud day!i have a eos 1000d dslr but i dont know how to shot like a silhouttes shot.tnx!

  • Carol

    I have taken a few silhouette pictures but it was accidental and not intentional lol, but love the effect

  • SkyLight

    Has anyone done the Silhouette with a Canon PowerShot SX 210 IS ? I would love to know if anyone had done some with a Powershot camera….. Thanks!

  • Tony sullivan

    Thanks Darren great info
    Tony

Some Older Comments

  • Tony sullivan March 5, 2013 01:24 am

    Thanks Darren great info
    Tony

  • SkyLight May 25, 2011 12:46 pm

    Has anyone done the Silhouette with a Canon PowerShot SX 210 IS ? I would love to know if anyone had done some with a Powershot camera..... Thanks!

  • Carol March 25, 2011 05:23 am

    I have taken a few silhouette pictures but it was accidental and not intentional lol, but love the effect

  • meng February 15, 2010 02:26 pm

    gud day!i have a eos 1000d dslr but i dont know how to shot like a silhouttes shot.tnx!

  • Bryan Mamaclay August 9, 2009 03:19 pm

    Relative to focusing for silhouettes, choosing a wide angle lens (28 mm) especially when metering for the bright highlights will certainly enhance and simplify focusing and obtaining the greatest depth field. Wider angles will generate more distortion but perhaps more creativity too. Otherwise, there's nothng wrong with using a telephoto and having a soft edge on the silhouette.

  • bogart July 21, 2008 05:09 pm

    AE would help me shoot better pictures. In silhouettes is there always a need to underexposed it?

  • bogart July 21, 2008 05:05 pm

    It enlightened me now on how to use the AE lock button. I hope with this new discovery I will have a better pictures.

  • Josh Hed July 18, 2008 11:13 am

    I often use the AE Lock (Auto Exposure Lock) feature of my camera when doing silhouettes. I aim at the brightest object in the scene, do a half shutter press, then press the AE Lock button. This tells the camera to remember the exposure for future shots. I then release the shutter button, point the camera at what I want in foucs, do a half shutter press (only the focus is calculated at this time), compose the shot and take the photo.

  • Nancy M July 18, 2008 08:10 am

    Oops! It appears I don't know how to include an image. Guidance welcomed.

  • Nancy M July 18, 2008 08:09 am

    I find silhouettes are often useful to get the story image when the light isn't cooperating. I shot this in the middle of the afternoon. Overhead it was darkly overcast, to the south, behind the City, the sky was brightening. So, I purposed underexposed a stop which serves to saturate the sky colour and darken the silhouette. When I shot a similar composition exposed for the skyline, it was washed out and boring.

  • bogart June 27, 2008 09:57 am

    I'm just wondering when is the right time of the day to shoot silhouettes?I tried during sunset and it works well. It is also possible during the morning?

  • Fotograf aus Kassel February 2, 2008 01:44 am

    Great.... thanks

  • Fred January 17, 2007 08:08 pm

    A wonderful site, very helpful. Though all the experts here might having amazing SLRs and DSLRs, the tips you provide are useful for me, eventhough I have a simply Sony DSC P100.

    Thank you guys.

  • Brian Auer January 17, 2007 12:44 pm

    This is one of my favorite posts. I find the subject matter to be very interesting. It's funny -- it seems like the stuff I like the best is the stuff I'm not really good at. Good reason to keep trying I guess.

  • Andrew B January 16, 2007 02:15 pm

    Nice. I've got a similar photo to the one in this post.
    Link

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