Photo taken by Lanny Cottrell for 123PhotoGo

Silhouette photography is something that is just beautiful, because it happens within the “story telling” mode. When you see a silhouette photo, it makes you think of what is going on, and it’s a great way to tell a story.

When you take a silhouette photo, make sure you have a camera that you can adjust the camera for exposure. Although, a camera that has just automatic mode may just give you good results. However, these newer cameras will sense that there is a subject in the foreground, and try to expose for that in automatic mode, thus, making your silhouette photo not turn out the way you dreamed about.

silhouette of person
Photo by luizclas on


Almost any object can be made into a silhouette. However, some objects are better than others.

Choose something with a strong and recognizable shape that will be interesting enough in its two-dimensional form to hold the viewer’s attention.

Silhouettes can’t draw on the colors, textures, and tones of subjects to make themselves appealing, so the shape needs to be distinct.

And having people as the subject is usually one of the best subjects in silhouette photography, especially if it is someone you know. Funny thing is that the person in the photos usually loves the results of them being a silhouette.

2- If you have a camera with auto flash, make sure you turn that off. A silhouette will not be a silhouette when a flash is used.

3- Get the light right when you do silhouette photos.

silhouette of a person on a swing
Photo by Asad Photo Maldives on

When it comes to lighting your subject, you’ll need to throw out a lot of what you’ve learned about normal photography and think a little backward.

Instead of lighting the front of your subject, you need to ensure that there is more light shining from the background than the foreground of your shot. Or to put it another way, you want to light the back of your subject rather than the front.

The perfect setup is to place your subject in front of a sunset or sunrise – but any bright light will do the trick.

4- Make sure that the subject in your silhouette is distinct and uncluttered. If you use a person for your subject, that is usually the easy part. But, make sure there isn’t a lot of other “stuff” in the photo to distract from the main subject.

silhouette photo of person riding on horse
Photo by Arvind shakya on

5- Use manual mode for your exposure control to get the photo just the way you want it.

A simple way to use Manual mode is to actually start in Auto. Point your camera at the brightest part of the sky, look at the shutter speed and aperture that your camera suggests, then switch over to Manual mode and dial in those settings.

Next, take a test shot and review it on your camera’s screen.

If your subject is too light (i.e., you need to make it darker), increase the shutter speed and see what happens. And if your subject is too dark, decrease the shutter speed to brighten up the shot.

Eventually, you’ll end up with a well-exposed silhouette!

6- Because you are working in the dark for your subject, make sure you keep it sharp. This is a time when autofocus might give you trouble, so be careful and watch that your focus is good.

silhouette photo of woman
Photo by Engin Akyurt on

7- If you want to take the time to be really creative, have controlled light with just enough light to highlight the edges of your subject, like the photo above. It is very dramatic and is something that really is a great piece of art. This is something that you would have to do with a manual camera, because the subject will need to be dark as well, plus the background may be dark, so you can get the lining of your subject lit.


Doing silhouette photography is something you have to practice with, but, when you get it right, it is a real piece of art. During the next little while, through summer and beyond, there will be that chance of some good sunset photography. Why not put a subject in the foreground, and take the photo just like you are taking a picture of the sunset, and you should get some great silhouette pictures. Good luck.

silhouette photography of group of people jumping during golden time
Photo by Belle Co on
Here is another inspirational photo, but, also done as a silhouette. This photo and other photos are available for sale at:

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