Silhouette portrait photography creates some of the most beautiful photographs possible, which is why I urge that every portrait photographer take at least one silhouette shot.
In this article, I’ll show you step-by-step how to create beautiful silhouette portraits. I’ll discuss a variety of tips and tricks that I’ve picked up during my time as a portrait photographer. You’ll be a portrait silhouette specialist by the time you’re done.
So let’s gets started.
1. Shoot from head to toe from a low vantage point:
Clear, simple compositions are the foundation for powerful silhouettes. Here’s what I suggest:
Place the subject’s complete body against the sky, from head to toe. You’ll need to be lower than the subject to pull this off, so try resting on your back or stomach.
If you’re unable to get low enough, have your subject stand on a rock, tiny mound, or sand dune. This will allow you to acquire an angle that places the subject’s whole outline against the sky in most cases. (There are several instances throughout this page.)
What is the significance of this?
If you can’t put your subject’s body against the sky, they’ll blend into the background, losing their distinct silhouette. You’ll wind up with a lot of muddled darkness, and your audience won’t be able to tell what’s going on right away.
Also, a word of advice:
It’s critical that the feet of your subject are defined against the sky! Legs cut off above the feet in a silhouette portrait appear as strange, short stumps:
Even if you follow all of these recommendations, there will be instances when you simply can’t find an appropriate location for a full-body-framed-against-the-sky type silhouette.
When that happens, you don’t have to abandon silhouettes completely. Simply move closer to your subject and create tighter compositions, focusing on the parts of your subject framed by the sky.
2. Choose the proper time of day to shoot:
Around 20-30 minutes before sunset, silhouettes work best. The best moment to take a picture depends on the angle you can get; the bigger the height difference between you and the subject, the sooner you should take the picture.
Because if you wait too long, the sun will disappear behind whatever your subjects are standing on, and the sky will be too dark to create a shadow.
Shooting too early, on the other hand, can be a problem; the sky’s colours can become monotonous, and you’ll run into additional complications, such as sun flare.
If the sun is partially hidden or filtered through thick clouds, silhouettes can be photographed earlier in the day (i.e., before sunset).
3. Carefully select your portrait silhouette settings:
Perfect silhouettes require careful settings.
Set your camera to Aperture Priority mode and a shutter speed of f/2.8 at ISO 400. Select Evaluative Metering to have the camera take the entire scene into account when determining exposure.
Even if the background is bright, the camera will expose for your subject’s skin if you fill the frame with their face or torso (see the photo below).
However, if you largely fill the frame with a brilliant sky, the camera will expose for the sky, bringing out the natural sunset hues while darkening everything else (see the photo below).
As a result, position your subject directly against the brilliant sky, with their body taking up only a little fraction of the frame. The sky will retain detail despite the subject being substantially underexposed.
4. Pose your silhouette portrait in a professional manner:
Silhouettes (since you can’t see them!) are particularly tolerant of bad facial expressions. When it comes to posing, though, silhouettes are harsh.
When posing subjects for a silhouette, bear the following in mind:
- Hugging stances are ineffective. A hug silhouette like a huge blob monster. Instead, all subjects must be properly defined, which implies they must be separated by at least a couple of inches. It’s nice for subjects to remain connected – but not by hugging, rather by holding hands or kissing.
- Make your clients turn their backs to the camera. Face profiles appear to be lovely and natural.
- Keep an eye on your attire. Clothing that is too baggy will not flatter your figure; the shape will become unattractive. It’s essential to dress in form-fitting clothing so that your subject stands out against the sky.
5. When you get the opportunity, take portrait silhouettes (because they sell!):
At every picture shoot, whether it’s a family portrait, maternity, engagement, or wedding, try to catch at least one silhouette.
Why? Because silhouettes are popular.
The following are some of the reasons why silhouettes are ideal for client shoots:
- The series is spiced up with silhouettes. Silhouettes come in a wide range of colours and styles, and the variation they provide quickly adds interest to any shoot. Plus, because silhouettes are different from normal portraits, they’re simple to sell as a piece of art on their own.
- Silhouettes are ideal for individuals who are bashful. Some clients despise the thought of having their portraits hung on the wall. As a result, silhouettes are the ideal compromise! A silhouette can be sold to a client as the ideal piece of personalised artwork – without making them feel self-conscious or uncomfortable.
- When printed large, silhouettes look even fantastic! When printed large, wide-angle silhouettes and scenic, environmental compositions look fantastic. You can sell wider silhouettes as a major piece of artwork if you capture them. The client will appreciate it, and you will make a more profitable deal.
Final remarks on perfect silhouette portrait photography:
That’s all there is to it:
There are five easy steps to capturing great portrait silhouette photos.
Silhouette portraits are a lot of fun, so try a couple out the next time you’re planning a portrait shoot! I’m positive you’ll be pleased with the results!