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Photography How-To: The Power of the Silhouette

The strength is in the simplicity



Portland Head lighthouse, Maine.

If there is one type of image that quickly catches the eye, it is the silhouette. Quite frankly, it doesn't matter what the subject is, i.e. a person, a tree, a mountain range or even 'ugly' power lines and so on, strong silhouettes get more second looks than most as per the additional images below.

This 'strength' is enhanced by color if it be sunrise or sunset time, plus the boldness of the subject in stark black. Color isn't a necessity, but it doesn't do any harm either.

Gulls in silhouette, Oregon coast.

'Blue Guitar', Trawsfynydd, Wales

Stonehenge, Wiltshire, England

Exposing for a silhouette
So how does one expose for such a shot? That will depend on the percentage of the subject in the viewfinder, but for 'small' objects such as trees or people et cetera, you merely place the sun behind the subject and shoot. It's generally that easy, but there are exceptions so I suggest you bracket your exposures. The same guidelines apply when the sun has dropped behind the horizon.

Long lens? Short lens? That's up to you, so just compose for maximum impact from your subject. As it's a silhouette, the impact comes naturally, and you don't actually have to try very hard! Anyway, here are few more silhouette examples that, as you'll see, come in a variety of forms . . .

Grey Heron at sunrise, County Dublin, Ireland

Silhouette of a tree set against a canyon wall, Zion national park, Utah

Wranglers on horseback at twilight, Wyoming

Stonehenge, Wiltshire, England.

Cliffs of Moher sunset, County Clare, Ireland

Mont San Michel, Brittany, France, at dawn.

A dead tree in Yellowstone national park, Wyoming, still has something to offer.

For your competitive spirit
Are you having trouble choosing one of your images for a photography competition? If so I suggest that you enter your best silhouette shot . . . then let me know how you faired. It's human nature to migrate to images with that extra punch, so do be on the lookout for subjects that would make good silhouettes when out with your camera.

Remember that whatever you photograph, the end result is limited only by your imagination!



Written and photographed by John Baker, Photographer/Guide, Travel Images Photography Tours

All images and text are strictly copyrighted by John Baker Photographer LLC/Travel Images Photography Tours, 1988 - 2024.

Permission in writing must be sought for any form of reproduction.


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