The basic idea of shooting silhouettes is to place your subject (the object you want to be blacked out) in the front of a strong light source (the sun, the sky…). If doing it correctly in the final result the subject will appear very dark or just black.

1. Choose a subject.

Any object can be made in a silhouette, however, you need to choose something recognizable because you want the subject to be recognizable to the audience observing your photograph. Silhouettes don’t have color, and that’s why the shape needs to be recognizable.

2. Turn off your flash.

If your camera is in automatic mode it will probably want to use the flash, so your flash will pop up out of nowhere. Make sure your flash is disabled because it will ruin the whole photo.

3. Get the light right.

When it comes to shooting silhouettes, you basically break some rules of photography. Instead of lighting the front of your subject, in the case of silhouettes you need to be blacked out your subject and keep the background lit. You want the light coming from the back rather than the front. The best lighting for shooting silhouettes is at sunrise or sunset with the sun in the background or some orange clouds.

4. Frame your image.

Frame your shot where you are shooting your subject against a plain and bright golden background. The best backgrounds are a golden sky without clouds and the sun setting or rising. The brightest light source should be positioned in the back of the photo behind your subject somewhere around the subject, it’s important to make sure the brightest light source is in the photo.

5. Shooting in auto mode.

Most modern cameras today have a mode called “Auto” if you’re not on the pro side of photography but you just like the fun of taking photos I recommend you use the auto mode.

To make the subject blacked you need to use the exposure composition dial, on most cameras, it’s on the right side of the camera. Turn it left or right depending on the camera model (Nikon, Canon, Sony, etc…), and if you do that correctly you should notice the exposure of the photo changing. Keep making it darker until the subject becomes dark or simply black.

6. Shooting in manual mode.

Almost every camera has a manual mode and you can also use the manual mode to shoot silhouettes. The manual mode is recommended for photographers that want to go more on the pro side of photography. In manual mode, there are 3 basic elements, and those are:

  • Shutter Speed
  • Aperture
  • ISO

First off, the ISO. It’s better to have your ISO at lowest to reduce any digital noise in the photo, so set that at the lowest you can depending on your camera (100 ISO and 50 ISO in more high-end cameras).

Next, set the shutter speed at the speed which is necessary for the conditions (if it’s very bright set the shutter speed to a high speed if it’s a bit dim lighting set it at a slower speed).

Finally, you want the aperture to be depending on how you want the photo to look. For example, if you want it to have a blurry background set it wide open (f/1.8-f/3.6) but if you want a high depth of field you need to close the aperture a bit (f/12-f/32) and depending on how much you close it the photo will be darker, and you’ll need to change the ISO or shutter speed to avoid underexposing the photo. And at last, the white balance. You’ll need to set that at cloudy to get the best golden colors.