ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Arts and Design»
  • Photography

How to Take a Silhouette Portrait Photograph

Updated on January 12, 2014
Be creative by taking silhouette portrait photographs
Be creative by taking silhouette portrait photographs | Source

Traditional ways of portrait photography can sometimes be boring. You can be creative by taking silhouette portrait photograph. Lighting plays a vital role in silhouette portrait photography. Lighting frames the body contour, sets the mood of image composition, and hooks the viewer’s attention to the subject and the object in the picture.

Positioning the subject (model) is very important in silhouette photography.
Positioning the subject (model) is very important in silhouette photography. | Source

Things You Need While Taking a Silhouette Portrait Photograph

Camera

You must have a good camera to take good pictures. Having said this, the best equipment is the one that you have. If you are passionate about photography, you don’t need a SLR or DSLR, you can create great shots from point and shoot camera, even mobile phones. Unless you are a professional photographer, you don’t carry your equipments every time, however, your mobile phone is always with you. You can take great silhouette portrait photographs from your mobile phones. Mobile photography is becoming very popular these days, handsets come with bigger megapixel camera.

A model

Without a model (subject), you cannot do portrait photography. Posing is important, however, positioning the model is more important. You, the photographer, must face the light source, while bright light must be behind your model.

A source of bright light

Positioning the subject (model) is very important in silhouette photography. Silhouette is created when the bright source of light is behind the subject. If you choose outdoor location, morning and late afternoon sunlight create great silhouette photographs. If you are shooting indoor, you must face to the light source such as lamps, open window, doors etc. and your subject must have his/her back to the light source.

Profile positioning (side view) will create better silhouettes than frontal pose.
Profile positioning (side view) will create better silhouettes than frontal pose. | Source

Try these settings

Mode: Aperture Priority (Av)

ISO: 400 (Or more)

White Balance: Custom

Aperture: Between f/6 to f/16

Exposure: -2/-3

Drive Mode: Single shot

Focal length: 35mm to 80mm

For white balance setup, use white paper as reference.

In silhouette photography, if you have more than two subjects, don’t make them stand too close.
In silhouette photography, if you have more than two subjects, don’t make them stand too close. | Source

How to Take a Silhouette Portrait Photograph

Camera Setting

Manual

Camera setting is very important to take asilhouette portrait photograph. Some of the cameras such as Nikon DSLR come up with Silhouette Mode. However, you can manually set your camera. The most important things to look while setting your camera manually are shutter speed and aperture.

Auto

Auto mode in a digital camera makes easier to take a picture. When your camera is in auto mode, it automatically determines how to expose your picture, i.e. it brightens up the subject, and darkens the object (background). To take a silhouette, you have to underexpose your subject.

If you have set your camera in auto mode, focus your camera at the bright part of the background and press the shutter halfway. Now, focus on the subject in lowlight, still pressing the shutter halfway, and then click. Don’t set your camera in auto flash mode if you want to take silhouette.

Model positioning

Interesting body pose creates beautiful photographs. Your silhouette photographs will look dull, if you don’t capture body contour.

Framing

The golden rule of third also applies to silhouette portrait photography. Don’t position your subject in the center. Leave enough space on one side of the frame.

Never use flash

Silhouette is created when the background (object) is bright and the subject (foreground) is dark. When you use flash, it is brightens your subject.

While taking a silhouette photographs, you have to face the light source, while bright light must be behind your subject.
While taking a silhouette photographs, you have to face the light source, while bright light must be behind your subject. | Source

What do you think about silhouette photography?

See results

10 Ways to Take a Silhouette Photograph

  • Try to capture your subject in exposed background, where objects are visible. Your subject must be underexposed.
  • Compose your picture with light on one side and shadow on the other side. Avoid light coming from behind the camera.
  • Background must be brighter than foreground. Your model will generate wonderful silhouettes when there is backlight.
  • Profile positioning (side view) will create better silhouettes than frontal pose. If you want to shoot frontal pose, you can ask your model to raise hands, angle in certain direction, or hold props.
  • Capturing body shape is important, models wearing fitting clothes will generate interesting silhouette. Make your model wear dark clothes rather than bright ones.


To take great silhouette pictures, light source must be behind the subject.
To take great silhouette pictures, light source must be behind the subject. | Source
  • Color, texture and tone of the subject are not visible in a silhouette photograph. You can compensate these elements by choosing interesting background and asking the subject to create interesting body posture.
  • If you are using artificial lighting, don’t brighten your subject, rather use the light to brighten the background. Light source must be behind the subject.
  • Anti-light creates good silhouette. However, try to avoid direct light on the lens, especially when you are shooting in daylight.
  • If you have more than two subjects, don’t make them stand too close. If your subject is using props, make him/her hold it away from the body.
  • Don’t let your subject take the entire frame. Capture the subject as well as the surrounding. Be ready to experiment with different body posture. You can take a complete silhouette or a partial silhouette.

Don’t let your subject take the entire frame. Best silhouette is created when you capture the subject as well as the surrounding.
Don’t let your subject take the entire frame. Best silhouette is created when you capture the subject as well as the surrounding. | Source

© 2013 Vinaya Ghimire

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • kerlund74 profile image

      kerlund74 4 years ago from Sweden

      Great hub, this information sure helps to improve photography!

    • profile image

      Sannel 5 years ago

      This is yet another excellent and very useful hub, my friend. You're a very talented photographer and I always enjoy looking at your wonderful images. I truly enjoyed reading this and your great ideas will be to big help to me.

      Thank you!

      Take care,

      Sannel

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      Lovely Vinaya!!

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image
      Author

      Vinaya Ghimire 5 years ago from Nepal

      @suzettenaples, when composed nicely, silhouette pictures convey better emotions than other pictures. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      @Frank, I lean from you you learn from me.This is how our writing life goes on.

      @Billy, thanks for appreciating my works.

      @always exploring, thanks for always being around. You are one of my best support system.

      @Faith, thanks for always coming up with appreciative feedback.

      @Mhatter, cheers

      @ExpectGreat, I sometime set white balance to auto, sometime I set it manually to create different effect.

      @agusfanani, photography is my hobby. I'm glad that we share the same passion. Thanks for your comment.

    • agusfanani profile image

      agusfanani 5 years ago from Indonesia

      I love photography and you've given very useful tips how to produce Silhouette photographs especially for the setting in Aperture priority to get quality silhouette results . Thank you for sharing.

    • ExpectGreatThings profile image

      ExpectGreatThings 5 years ago from Illinois

      Very helpful! And you are really talented! Do you always use custom white balance? I've never played around with that feature.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 5 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you again for this.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 5 years ago from southern USA

      Very interesting hub here. Thank you for sharing your great knowledge in all of these areas of photography. Your photographs are always amazing and beautiful. I have always loved silhouette photography and wondered just how they did it, and now I know!

      Great work. Voted up ++++ and sharing

      God bless, Faith Reaper

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 5 years ago from Southern Illinois

      You are so talented, i envy your knowledge. I think my favorite is the silhouette. Thank's for the info.........

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Great work, Vinaya. You have an obvious talent with the camera. Thanks for the tips.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 5 years ago from Shelton

      Vin these last few posts are helpful and amazingly created so someone like me can follow it easily.. I like easy..:) thank you bro :)

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 5 years ago from Taos, NM

      Excellent hub! I so enjoyed reading this and your photos are wonderful. Silhouette pictures are very creative and lovely when you want to convey a certain mood with your photo. Thank you for your tutorial on how to accomplish this.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)