Portrait Silhouettes

Silhouette TipsThere is just something about the graphic simplicity of the silhouette that I find beautiful. When the main subject becomes dark and loses all its detail, all that remains is the form.  You need to be careful when composing your silhouette to ensure that the shape is clean and distinct.  By this, I mean that you should still be able to recognize the silhouetted subject matter when it is stripped of all its detail.  Often with a portrait silhouette the subject will be in profile.  To achieve a successful silhouette, your subject must be backlit only.  Exposing for a silhouette is simple – expose for the background (don’t meter from your subject), and let your subject fall into underexposed blackness.  In the studio I often use my moonlight softbox as my backdrop and light source.  The subject is placed in close proximity to the softbox.  The light is powerful in this setup; the result is that it wraps around the subject slightly, giving a hint of detail around the edges.  Silhouettes in the studio with a plain solid background make a perfect canvas for an added texture or other element.  Play with the layer blending modes in Photoshop to achieve different results.

Family Silhouette

Outdoor Silhouette

Of course, when outside the sun makes the perfect light source for silhouettes.  When metering, don’t meter directly off the sun, but off to the side from a bright portion of the sky.  Bracketing here will give you a nice selection of images from which to choose your favourite later on.  Remember your settings for future sessions to quickly replicate this effect.  You may need to tweak your settings in post production to make the silhouetted portion deep black.  This can easily be achieved in Photoshop or Lightroom.

Band Silhouette

Silhouettes are the perfect way to experiment – pare down your subject to its bare minimum, focus on the form, be creative!

Musician Silhouette

Studio SilhouettePregnancy Silhouette

Silhouette with Added Background






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