I Learn How To Take A Silhouette Photograph

Meilisa Dwi N
6 min readMar 28, 2021


Actually I’ve written this draft story on October 2020, but unfortunately I keep procrastinate it and just realized that I haven’t published it yet HAHAHA. So, here it is, late is better than never, right?

Hello folk! One of the reasons why I write this post is because I wanna show you my progress in taking silhouette photograph. A few days ago, I saw a tutorial video how to take silhouette picture by Aries Lukman and then he also gave the assignment. It’s my very 1st time to learn about the technique for taking silhouette photograph. Before doing the assignment, suddenly I thought about my past silhouette pictures then made some evaluations about ’em hahaha. In the past, I didn’t know the theory. I just shot anything carelessly, without paying any attention to composition, light, angle, and anything. For example, take a look at my shoot in 2014 (the bicycle), the angle is so bad because the background was full of the trees that made interruptions and we couldn’t see the wheel clearly. So in this article I’ll write what I know so far about the theory in silhouette picture (plus some examples of my past (both failed and good enough) shoot as the comparisons).

Some of my silhouette photos from time to time

*For the disclaimer, I’ll say that still I’m not good enough to take silhouette picture. Of course I’m still learning and honestly I still don’t have my favorite silhouette shoot of mine. So that, please don’t expect too much in this post. I just try to share what I know. Happy reading!

WHAT do you mean with silhouette photograph?

For me, Silhouette photograph is an underexpose picture of the objects which is not paying attention to their detail (ie: the outfit, the color of the dress, the expression, and others) because it produces dark object, otherwise, it takes attention to the outline. Some pictures are edited in Black and White, but the others are still rich in color (usually they were taken in golden hour time, so that it’s not make sense to turn the beautiful sky into black and white).

Color (2019) vs Black and White (2019)

HOW do you take the silhouette photograph?

You can take silhouette photograph by any devices you have, whether with your smartphone or mirrorless camera or DSLR camera, or others. You just need to remember the concept: silhouette photograph needs a high contrast and backlight, so all you need to do is put your object in front of the source of light (and also make sure that there is no light between you and your object). So, the order is: you > object > source of light.

There’s one more thing to be noticed, decrease the exposure in your camera setting! Moreover, if you use smartphone, usually the system will automatically adjust the brightness and use HDR mode to make the objects brighter (of course this is not what you want). The picture below is one my failure in making silhouette mode because I used auto mode in my camera. The camera detected our faces and made it brighter by increasing the ISO and slowing down the shutter speed.

A failed silhouette (2019)

Here, there are two tutorial simple steps I got from Aries Lukman:

  1. First, Look for the best position for you (of course also watch out your safety). Find a strong light source and put you object in front of it. As I said before, the object should be in the middle between the photographer and the source of light. Make sure you’re in the darker area than the source of light.
A silhouette picture I took inside the traditional market (Bondowoso, 2019)

2. Second, Look for the best background. You should find a location without too many things obstructing the background (remember my failed bicycle shoot on 2014?). For the tips, you can try using low angle so that the background would be the sky without too much distraction like tree, the stone, the building, or another.

Yogyakarta, 2017 (Picture was taken by Juan)

WHO can be the object for silhouette photograph?

Because the silhouette photograph doesn’t need the detail, I don’t think that everything can be the object for this. Yea I mean actually everything can be, but to make a stunning photograph you need an unique object. So what is the object?

  • You need the object which has characteristic so that anyone who see your photo can identify it easily by seeing its outline. Imagine, if I show you the silhouette of a cube, could you guess what is it? Maybe you’ll guess it’s a dice, the other may guess it as Rubik’s cube, or maybe the other will say it is a cupboard. The object with no characteristic would make us difficult to identify. Now, compare it with the silhouette of a cat, everyone can easily guess it because a cat has unique ears. And so does the silhouette of people, the outline of person is easily guessed.
Silhouette of a cat (2019)
Silhouette of a group of people (2019)
  • Another tips. To make the photo more interesting, you need a unique gesture of the object. Let’s compare the picture below! For me, an object which has an activity could tell a story that a stagnant one, right?
A man enjoyed the dusk (2017) and a person took a picture by smartphone (2019)
  • You need a simple object. A crowded object will make interruption, while the simple object will make our eyes identify the object easily. Imagine, which one is better, the silhouette of leafy tree (dense leaf) or infrequent branch? Of course infrequent branch would be more interesting. Too much object will make your audience confuse
Too much object in the frame will distract the picture (2019)

WHEN do you take the silhouette photograph?

Every time. You can take it every time. Because the light source could be natural or artificial. You can choose whether you would use sunlight in the day or lamp in the night. If you want something more beautiful, try to shoot in the early morning or late afternoon. The orange sky (golden hour or even blue hour) would be nice for your background.

Marore, 2019
Malang, 2018

WHERE do you take the silhouette photograph?

Everywhere. As long as we can meet the requirement: there are backlight and good background. Again, I’ll say that we should try low angle to make a minimalist background of the sky.

WHY do we take silhouette photograph?

I don’t have any specific reason. But I also think that the silhouette photo is artistic, it’s simple and dramatic at the same time. We let the audience guess the story behind and guess what’s the object. And, the most important reason is, taking photos could be a good mood booster for me.

Bondowoso, 2020
Marore, 2019
Banyuwangi, 2020.


That’s my story in learning how to take silhouette photograph. Hope you find something useful here! Feel free to discuss anything and thanks for reading!



Meilisa Dwi N

Meilisa is a photography enthusiast who has interest in agriculture.