How to Take a Kick-butt Silhouette Picture in 8 Easy Steps by Kristen Rachelle
Taking silhouette portraits is one of my most favorite things to do during a photo session because of a number of reasons. One is the emotions and moods you can capture with them. Another is that it takes all distracting elements from your subject and concentrates solely on the frame of someone (i.e. someone kissing or jumping or laughing). It doesn't tell the whole story, but it leaves a lot to the viewers imagination and gives the picture a mysterious and dramatic quality. The last is that you can get some kick-butt sky color by doing them at sunset.
1. First and foremost, make sure your background is brighter than your subject. You want your subject to stand out and this can't happen unless your background is brighter. Most of my silhouette pictures are taken at sunset time when the sun is just over the horizon.
2. Make sure your subject is isolated and not cluttered with other elements in the background. For instance, make sure they are not standing in front or right next to a tree or another person. If I have more than one subject, I like to have them stand a bit apart so I see separation instead of one big black blob.
3. Use spot metering. I set my camera to spot metering and meter off of the sky. You want your sky to be perfectly exposed. By doing this, you will silhouette your subject in the foreground. So I set my exposure in manual and then I focus on my subject and fire away.
4. It's all about the light. If you are trying to do a silhouette on a super cloudy day, it will be almost impossible. It will also look like a big blob of nothing. I've tried to get silhouette shots at sunset on the beach when it was cloudy, and most of the time my subject won't stand out from the clouds. However, if there are some clouds and still a lot of bright sky, this makes for a pretty rad silhouette. Just make sure to try and get a composition where your subject is not right in front of a cloud.
5. Get down low. If you are shooting at the beach or somewhere where there is a horizon, you need to get down low if you are trying to get a full body silhouette. Otherwise, their bottom half will disappear with the ocean and it's not so pretty. When I do close-up silhouette shots, I just make sure there is nothing blocking my subjects outline.
6. Use a higher aperture to get that starburst effect. Usually F11 or higher works the best. :)
7. It's all about the impact! Frame your subject in a way that will wow. There are millions of ways to do this, but my fav's for family portrait photography are dancing, jumping, kissing, tossing a child in the air, or outlining a pregnant belly.
8. Use photoshop to enhance your silhouette even more. A kick-butt silhouette picture can go from wow to holy wow with a couple small enhancements in post-processing. A little added contrast or saturation can really make a silhouette pop.
Hope this helps you go out and take some awesome silhouettes of your own. Happy shooting!
thank you so much to kristin for this article. be sure to check out her site/blog for more amazing silhouette photos as well as all of her amazing work!!