One of my goals during each of my family sessions is to deliver a great diversity of images to my clients. Each gallery is going to contain a few classic portraits, lots of candid and emotive moments, and more creative shots. One of my favorite creative shots to take is a silhouette image.
If you’re not familiar, a silhouette image puts the subject in black against a bright background. The only details visible are the outline of the subject. With the right sky and positioning, they can be a very fun and dramatic spin on a family image.
The first thing you need to know about taking a silhouette image is that you need bright light behind your subjects. If you’re in a low light or totally overcast situation, taking a silhouette would be very difficult. The drama of this type of image comes from having a very bright backdrop to contrast with your subject.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need the sun to be above the horizon, but it definitely still needs to be relatively bright!
Having a bright sky is all well and good but if you can’t get the bodies of your subjects against the sky (and not against trees or buildings), you can’t take a proper silhouette. You can get creative on how to achieve this elevation! The easiest option is if you have a hill where you can place your subjects at the top and you can go below and shoot up at them. The photo below didn’t have a hill but there was a bench that I had this family stand on while I laid on the ground.
As photographers, we are constantly checking for skin tones and exposure on our subjects. For a silhouette image, you need to throw away everything you know and expose for the bright sky. You want your subjects to register as totally black. This means bumping up your f-stop to f10-f16 and then using your shutter speed to find the proper exposure. One of the benefits of narrowing down your aperture is that, if you do have the sun in the sky, you get these amazing defined sunbeams.
While I spend most of my sessions telling my subjects to get as close as possible to each other, now I am looking for separation! We want each person’s silhouette to be defined against the sky. No unidentifiable blobs!
While silhouettes can look interesting straight out of your camera, the magic happens at the computer screen. I add contrast and pull down my blacks to make super defined subjects. For the sky, I add vibrance, saturation, and increase my highlights. Don’t be afraid to get creative with the warmth!
Now what are you waiting for? Go scout out a location with some elevation and have fun playing with making a family silhouette for your next clients!
"To say that I love each one would be cliche and a total understatement, but seriously... She nailed it. Being a photographer myself, I am very picky and searched dozens of photographers before coming back to lyndsay and booking her and I am so glad I did. I can't even remember the last time I hired a photographer and was this in love with the images and unable to pick just a few favorites. Thank you, lyndsay, for making the photo session easy (with 3 kids), fun and providing this mama memories for a lifetime.”
"Our images are so special and really captured our joy and the sweet personality of our little girl. Lyndsay did a great job going beyond the typical posed shots and making our photos feel authentic. We will treasure them forever."
- amanda, northborough
"We have done multiple sessions (family and newborn) and we’re so happy with the results. Lyndsay makes you feel comfortable and is able to truly capture the moment. We will have her prints hung in our house for years to come."
- beth - framingham
"We've done it all - newborn, maternity, cake smash, family photos - and every single time we are amazed by the quality of the end product. Lyndsay captures beautiful moments that we will treasure forever!"
- nicole - framingham