Silhouette images can really pack a punch — they can be very striking and have the ‘wow’ factor. But how do you take them? Follow the tips below to take your own perfect beach silhouette images!
A silhouette is an image of a person (animal or object) represented as a solid, usually black shape.
All the images here were taken either on the beach or on the cliff tops above the beach. The beach is a great location for silhouette photography because of the wide-open sky and uncluttered background.
#1. Light Source
The first and most important rule for shooting a silhouette is to have a strong source of light. To take a great silhouette, you’ll need the light source behind your subject. The most obvious choice is to use the sun, which is why you’ll see most silhouette images being taken outside.
You’ll also need to be mindful of the position of the sun. Sunsets, therefore, are some of the best times to shoot a silhouette as the sun is low in the sky and easy to position behind your subject. It is harder to shoot a silhouette at midday because the sun is high in the sky (unless you’re planning on shooting upwards!).
Of course, you can shoot a silhouette anywhere, at any time of day, as long as you have a strong light source behind your subject. But if you want a quick and easy result, then going to the beach at sunset is your best bet.
You’ll need to find a light, clear, uncluttered background for your image. This is necessary in order to be able to see the outline of your shape clearly. A large section of open sky is the easiest option, and that is why shooting silhouettes at the beach is very popular.
#3. Vision and Direction
Think about the image that you’d like to create before the shoot. It’s helpful to have a few different ideas to experiment with and see what works.
I love to capture connection in my images and so always make sure that my subjects are interacting in some way. It adds to the emotional impact of the final image. It’s very important to direct your subject and explain how you’d like them to stand or pose and what you’d like them to do. You can ask them to look at each other, jump in the air or twirl around.
Make sure that you can see their outline and that they aren’t standing too close together. A hug, for example, could look like a big clump!
#4. Weather and Tides
It may be obvious, but it’s important to consider the weather and tides when planning a beach shoot. It’s not ideal to be shooting in wet and miserable conditions, so make sure you check the forecast before leaving home.
Equally, when planning a shoot at the beach, make sure that you’ve checked the tide tables to ensure that you have a safe environment to shoot in. You’ll also need to think about protecting your gear at the beach from the saltwater and sand.
#5. Change Your Aperture
If you change your aperture settings then you can create different effects. The ‘sunburst’ in the image above is created using a small aperture (f16). It’s fun to experiment with different aperture sizes to see the different looks you can create. Try a large aperture for a more blurry/hazy background.
#6. Shoot Low
I always shoot my silhouette images from a very low angle. I do this to make sure that I’m getting as much as I can of my subject in the frame. If you shoot from a higher angle, for example, you can often end up with legs and feet merging into the floor and losing definition.
Use your exposure compensation dial to underexpose your image. If you’ve no idea what I’m talking about then check your manual for instructions. It’s a very simple, effective technique and it will make sure that your silhouette is dark. Experiment with how much you underexpose – take a few different shots with different settings and see which one works best for your situation.
So, there you have it. 7 tips for taking the perfect beach silhouette.
About the author: Gemma Griffiths has been a family photographer near Cardiff, South Wales for over 13 years. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. As well as photographing families, Griffiths also offers business photography and beginners photography training for adults and children (aged 11-16). You can find more of her work on her website, Facebook, and Instagram. This article was also published here.