April 3, 2016

Simple Silhouettes

Silhouette photography can produce some of the most striking and dramatic results.

The tangible details, colours & textures of a photograph are essentially replaced by far more conceptual assets, like ambiance & emotion, all by the clever balance of light, tone and shadow. Silhouettes are a great way to engage the viewer, as we’re all left to individually interpret the image ourselves – warmth, love, envy, peace, calm, melancholy, all may be seen through the eye of the beholder.

So, how difficult is a silhouette shot? Well, on one end of the spectrum there are some stunning photographs from high-end fashion houses, where the art direction and lighting have taken a large production team days to precisely hone, achieving the perfect result and capturing just the right nuance & emotion for the campaign.

But there’s also the simple do-it-yourself approach for those of us without huge budgets and loads of time/equipment/space!

I wanted to set up a quick home project, something I could light and shoot within 10 minutes, and would hopefully give some decent yet effective results.

Besides my camera and a selection of random props, this set-up only required:

  • A table lamp (without its shade)
  • A translucent reflector – a piece of pale paper will also work, as long as it diffuses the harsh bulb light

I placed the bulb about 1 metre from my lens and then the translucent reflector directly in front of the lamp.

I grabbed my trusty 50mm f1.8 prime lens, set aperture to f2.0 and began to set up all sorts of items I could see around me. From chess pieces to flowers, ornaments to my specs, anything was fair game in this little project!


Such warm colours achieved straight from the camera, with no editing required


A keepsake – edited easily in LR5, by just adjusting the tone to add blues & greys


Even my specs weren’t safe!


I then pulled focus on the more ‘romantic’ items to add an ethereal quality to the silhouette. Again, just some simple playing around with the tone function and clarity slider in LR5 resulted in these lavender and rose hues.


And by tweaking the shadows and highlights, you can determine if little hints of detail are seen, or completely removed, from your silhouette.

This is definitely a project I’d turn to again. With a little easy prep, and a few minutes of post-production, you can breathe new life into all kinds of objects, and perhaps even produce your next piece of art to hang in your home 🙂

Would love to hear from you if you’ve tried this or have any silhouette work /ideas/tips to share 🙂