37 : Silhouettes

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Strong Form


The drama of a strong, beautiful silhouette gives the shape of the subject without providing any of the specific details. Much is left to imagination, creating an intriguing narrative that allows the viewer to bring their own interpretation to the image. In a good silhouette, the shape of the subject will be clear, sharp, and well-defined, standing out against a lighter background such as the sky or a bright window.

For an outdoor silhouette, it’s important to shoot at a time when the sun is bright and low, not directly overhead. Lighting which illuminates only one side of your subject is a must and usually your subject will block the light source. 

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For an indoor silhouette, place your subject in front of a large window or door while minimizing light entering from other directions, such as nearby windows in the same room.


    Image by  Cassie Duffle

    Image by Cassie Duffle

    • Set your camera’s focus area to “spot” focus and position the focus point where you would like your subject to appear in the frame.
    • Use Manual mode to control both the aperture as well as the shutter speed.
    • Raise your aperture number to lengthen the depth of field, adding clarity to your subject’s outline. As a starting point, try setting your aperture at f/5.6. You can always adjust it later if you need to let in more light. 
    • Take a test shot to check lighting. If your subject is too bright, increase your shutter speed. If your subject is black, but the background is dark, decrease your shutter speed.
    • Continue tweaking the shutter speed until you have an appropriate balance between your subject (black) and the background.
    • If you find that you have motion blur, raise your ISO so that you can, in turn, raise your shutter speed.

    Creative Prompts

    Try the following ideas if you're not sure what to photograph as a silhouette:

    • Children playing together
    • A child jumping in the air or being dynamic
    • A child with a pet

    Share your images!

    As always, we look forward to seeing your images in the Facebook group! If you have never posted a picture, it's fine to start any time. The Facebook group is a positive, no-judgement zone. We also hope that reach out for advice or help if you need it!