If you’re looking for new and creative photography techniques to try with your iPhone, it might be time to try shooting silhouettes. A silhouette is captured by shooting the outline of an object so it appears as a black or dark shape without much detail against a bright background. This dramatic contrast between light and dark is great for capturing unique profile pics.
Whether you’re just starting out with silhouette photography or want to refine your craft, here are some tips for taking beautiful silhouette photos with your iPhone.
What is the purpose of a silhouette?
As an art form, profile silhouettes became popular in the mid-18th century to capture profile images cheaply by only including the outline of the portrait. Silhouettes were originally cut from black paper and placed on a white background as an alternative to more expensive portrait paintings.
Today, silhouette photos are taken to convey mystery, drama, and emotion. They can be used to tell a story and are beautiful in their simplicity. Because silhouettes have such strong contrast between light and dark, they leave much to the viewer’s imagination and are perfect for artistic renditions of people, animals, and recognizable objects.
How to take silhouette photos on your iPhone
Don’t be intimidated by silhouette photography. You don’t need perfect light, great timing, or a fancy camera. In fact, your iPhone is the perfect tool for capturing beautiful silhouettes. Here are our top tips for getting a great silhouette shot.
1. Shoot into the light
Anytime you have a strong contrast in brightness between the foreground and background, it’s a great opportunity for beautiful silhouette photography. The secret is to point your camera into the light to capture the dark outline of your subject. Once you have a composition in mind and have framed your shot, hold your finger on the screen over the lightest part of your image. This will lock the auto exposure and focus on the lightest part of your image so that your subject is darker and more dramatic.
2. Choose a subject with interesting lines and shapes
Not all subjects are suitable for silhouette photography. The key is to find something with an interesting outline that will stand out as a silhouette. There are many things that can make interesting silhouettes — sailboats, trees, bicycles, people, and dogs. Subjects with more intricate details might not show up well as silhouettes, so save them for a future photo shoot.
3. Use Burst mode to find the right composition
If you are photographing a moving subject for your silhouette, you will likely take dozens of photos in order to find the perfect composition. Make it easy on yourself and shoot in Burst mode while asking your subject to move around. Yes, you will likely take lots of photos that you’ll just end up deleting later, but you will also capture some fun silhouette photos that show the perfect combination of shadow and light. The more you experiment with silhouette photography, the better your compositions will become.
4. Take photos from a low angle
Novice photographers have a tendency to shoot at eye level, and while there’s nothing wrong with taking silhouette photos from a standing position, we recommend getting down low and shooting upward toward your subject. Shooting from this angle makes it easier to capture your subject and the sky or background, without other distracting elements.
5. Hide the sun behind your subject
Sunset is one of the most popular times to take silhouette photos, but sometimes, the sun will be too bright or distracting and will actually take away from your overall composition. The secret in this situation is to position the sun behind your subject so you can’t see it. The sun will be hidden, but it will give your subject a nice pronounced glow around the silhouette, also known as backlight in photography.
How do you take silhouette pictures inside?
Most silhouette images are taken outside, shooting into the sun against the sky, but you can also try capturing silhouettes indoors. The technique is the same — shooting a dark subject against a bright background or a light source. Here are some ideas for shooting indoor silhouettes with your iPhone:
- Capture your subject against a bright window.
- Shoot from inside a dark room with your subject standing in a lighted doorway. (Make sure the doorway is well-lit though, or you’ll end up with a noisy photo.)
- Shoot a partial silhouette by having your subject pose near a window and reflect the light back onto their face.
How to edit your silhouette images
Using your iPhone to capture beautiful silhouettes is only the beginning. You can make huge improvements to your silhouettes by doing a bit of editing with your favorite photo editing app. Here are some tips for editing your silhouette images.
1. Increase the contrast for a more graphic look
As mentioned earlier, silhouettes were historically just cut black paper against white backgrounds. If you want to recreate that simple, graphic look, use the Contrast slider to increase the difference between light and dark. While you may lose some of the details of your subject, the crisp outline will be emphasized.
2. Increase the shadows
Sometimes all you need to emphasize your silhouette is more contrast in your photo, but if you still see distracting details, you may want to use the Shadow slider to darken your silhouette.
3. Add warmth for a soft glow
Sunset and sunrise are great times to practice silhouette photography. The colors will naturally be warmer during the golden hour, but you can also highlight those colors in post-processing. Use the Warmth slider to make your silhouette photos pop with a soft glow. This is especially dramatic against a cloudy sky, as you will see a variety of colors that add interest to your composition.
4. Experiment with black-and-white or monochrome filters
Sometimes a colorful background will distract the viewer from the subject, making your photo feel too busy. A black-and-white filter simplifies the image, highlighting the subject and the background while taking away distracting colors. Most photo editing apps have several different black-and-white or monochrome filters, so you can experiment with different looks until you settle on one that works well for your image.
How to turn a photo into a silhouette in Photoshop
You can also use the editing tips above to turn a photo into a silhouette using Photoshop Express or another editing app. While not all photos will work as silhouettes, most photos taken against a bright background will work with a little post-processing. Simply add a black-and-white filter, then increase the contrast until the details disappear.
Once you have the basic concept down, you’ll find that silhouette photos are easy to create and fun to edit. Follow these tips to add a whole new dimension to your photography.