Silhouette Photography by Geraint Rowland

I have always enjoyed taking and viewing silhouette photographs.  I think that the simplicity of silhouette images adds to their overall beauty.  And I believe the lack of detail in silhouette photography often makes the imagery more interesting by adding an element of intrigue.  I particularly like silhouette photography when there is an interesting background such as a colourful sky, dramatic cloud formation or a strong sunset.

Silhouette Surfers in Peru by Geraint Rowland

How to take silhouette photos

As with everything in photography, when taking silhouette photos, the most important thing is the lighting.  In basic terms, you want the background to be lighter than your foreground subject.  The best way therefore is to take the image at either sunrise or sunset.  At this time of the day you may also have the added bonus of colour in the sky.  The best silhouette photographs are often taken when the sun is low, for example during a dramatic sunset.  However, equally as impressive silhouette images can be taken against a blue sky.  Alternatively silhouette photos can be taken against the bright shine of a fjord in Oslo, the expanse of the ocean, or a snowcapped mountain.  Finally silhouette images can be created against the backdrop of artificial lighting such as at Lima’s Circuito Mágico del Agua, the World's largest water fountain complex.  Click through the slideshow below for more examples of silhouette photography I have taken on my travels:

Silhouettes are a great way of adding mystery and drama to an image, drawing the viewer in and letting them use their imagination.  They can transform a simple scene into one full of emotion lifting an otherwise throwaway photo into a standout shot.  There is a wealth of useful information online regarding silhouette photography and the techniques involved.  Without getting too technical here are some tips for shooting powerful silhouettes:

1.  It's all about the light: As with all photography the importance of correct lighting can not be emphasised enough.  For silhouette photography your subject (the silhouette) should be in front of the light source (sun/sky/artificial light).  You then need your camera to set the exposure on the brightest part of the image as opposed to on the subject.  This will result in your subject being under exposed and becoming a silhouette.

2.  Keep it simple: Look for locations that have a large amount of open space and are uncluttered.  The less distracting elements in the frame the better, and make use of negative space.  

3.  Don't use flash: You want as little light in front of your subject as possible, so do not use flash whilst taking silhouettes.  If shooting on automatic mode your flash may fire automatically due to the low light.  Instead switch the camera to either automatic, shutter, or aperture priority modes.

4.  Choose a strong subject: Choose subjects with a strong and recognisable shape and form for silhouette photos.  When photographing people up close, try to catch them side on so you can capture the detail in the profile.  Somethings work better than others, experiment and have fun.

More examples of my silhouette photography can be found on my Facebook or on my Flickr account.  If you are interested in purchasing any of my silhouette images or would like further information please send me an email at: geraintrowlandphotography@gmail.com.