How to create a silhouette

I wanted to use post today to talk briefly about a photographic technique that I sometimes employ… creating silhouettes. A silhouette is where the person or object within the picture consists of just an outline with the rest being filled with just a single shade, usually black. The example I will use is a photo I took whilst in Plymouth over Christmas. When taking a silhouette, you generally want the person or object you are silhouetting to be dark compared to the background. Taking a photo into the sun is perfect for this.

You will notice that the person in the photo (my cousin Gemma) and the arch surrounding her, is dark. The background (the sea) appears properly exposed. This is what I want for my silhouette. To achieve this, I focused my camera by pointing it at the sea, not Gemma. If I had focused the image on Gemma, I would have ended up with something like this

Here you can see Gemma and the arch in more detail. Also, the background is very light. I don’t want either of these things.

Ok, back to the first image. You may notice that, although small, there are a few details of Gemma still showing. Nothing against Gemma, but I just want to have a black outline. For this I will use ( is a great and simple piece of photo editing software. You can download it free here).

After opening up the image in, I go to Adjustments, Brightness/Contrast. Increasing the contrast makes lighter areas of the photos lighter and darker areas darker. Not only does this remove detains on Gemma and the arch but it gives more definition to the waves in the background. Once I am happy with the image, I click ok.

Finally I rotate the image slightly and crop it so that both side are roughly symmetrical. I could at this stage make the image black and white, but I quite like the watercolour effect that retaining some of the blue in the background gives.

This effect is simple to achieve but ver effective in my opinion. By removing the details in the subject, the viewer is left to fill in the gaps themselves, making the photo more dramatic as a result.


12 thoughts on “How to create a silhouette

  1. oOo thats awesome 😀 i havnt really taken any silhouette pictures before! maybe i shall test it out and try that out x) thanks! very nice picture too ;D i like it

  2. beautiful framing on that image. though, i do like how the first photo still had a little bit of light on her. The drama in the the last photo works too but perhaps leaving a bit of light on the edge of the figure and not the insides (does that even make any sense?) so a cross between the first and last photo. that way the figure and the arch is not too flattened out. : ) not that i am any expert on photography, of course. sorry if this comment sounded a bit pompous!

  3. Pingback: List of ‘how to’ guides | Michael's Blog

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