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silhouette photo tutorial: 7 tips for success

There are a handful of questions I receive on a regular basis. One of them is how I take silhouette photos! Seems pretty random, but it’s not random at all. This question comes about every time I share one of my #SilhouetteByBecky pictures on social media — and I do love to post those pictures from time to time.


I’m pleased to share a VIDEO tutorial on my top 7 tips because watching a demonstration is far better than any written words in this context, right? Also, I’ve included those tips right here in the blog post for your convenience.


Tip 1: Timing is everything

The silhouette effect happens when the subject is in front of the light, as opposed to facing the light. I prefer the sun to be just below the horizon (as opposed to just above the horizon), whether it’s just coming up or just going down… sunrise or sunset.

Tip 2: Elevate the subject

To capture your subject’s full body, it’s helpful if the subject is higher than you, like on a hill. Or put another way, you might need to get lower than your subject. Squats, anyone?

Tip 3: Experiment with composition

When it comes to framing and composing your shot, play around with options. For example, the horizon could be really close to the bottom of the frame … or really close to the top. You can have your subject centered or off to the side. Sometimes you don’t know what’s going to turn out best until you review the pictures after the fact. So just. keep. shooting.

Tip 4: Watch your shapes

For your subject to have a distinct shape or outline, watch your background to ensure that there’s no visual clutter getting in the way. Bodies overlapping will not make sense in silhouette context. Utilize those awesome limbs! Think about your subject’s arms, legs, fingers… whatever… and how they’re positioned. Have fun experimenting with poses.

Tip 5: Tap on the brightest spot

To get the optimal color of the sky — not an overexposed / white-ish sky, here’s the trick: simply tap on the brightest part of the sky right before you shoot so the camera meters to that, which will also help your subject to be even darker.

Tip 6: Rapid fire for action

To capture action shots, I like to hold down that shutter for the rapid fire feature which, as I understand it, is a feature available on many phones but not all. When reviewing all those images, you’ll quickly be able to choose the winners and eliminate the rest.

Tip 7: Finishing touch with photo editing

The last piece to creating a beautiful silhouette image is that little touch of magic — also known as photo editing! … which of course can happen right there on your phone. There are a ton of photo-editing apps. My favorite is still PicTapGo (have you seen this video demonstration?). I’m never totally satisfied until I’ve taken care of that finishing touch.


2 Responses

  1. Amy Beiter says:

    Great tips. Tried some shots tonight. Basic question- do you usually have your subjects facing you or towards the sunset?

  2. Thanks for sharing these great tips! Looking forward to giving this a try next time I have the chance :)