5 Steps To Shoot The Perfect Silhouette In Street Photography

 

If you ever wondered how to shoot incredible silhouettes, buckle up! With a few adjustments here and there you will massively improve with these tips. It's important to keep the steps in mind and practice them over and over again.

I started out with close ups of strangers on the street in 2013. However, I quickly realized how much I love the power of massive contrasts

Retina by Vijce | Düsseldorf, 2013

Retina by Vijce | Düsseldorf, 2013

I love about silhouettes that they are rather abstract and raise more questions than they answer. Besides, they are rather aesthetic and perfectly fit minimalist compositions.

Let me show you how to do it:

 

1) Find a scenery with Strong natural contrasts 

Untitled by Vijce | Seoul, 2013 // Time Is Running Out by Vijce | Seoul, 2013

Untitled by Vijce | Seoul, 2013 // Time Is Running Out by Vijce | Seoul, 2013

A silhouette only works with strong contrasts. I captured the woman on the left on a dark background. That's why you don't notice her that much.

You always have to look for sceneries that are rather bright. Think of white walls, backlights, headlights of cars and bright billboards. Only that way your silhouette jumps into your viewer's eye. It's always a yin and yang between bright and dark.

 

2) Find A subject that's suitable for a silhouette

Untitled by Vijce | Düsseldorf, 2013 // Colors of the Night by Vijce | Düsseldorf, 2013

Untitled by Vijce | Düsseldorf, 2013 // Colors of the Night by Vijce | Düsseldorf, 2013

As superficial as it sounds, but tall subjects that don't look too round generally look more aesthetic. They also convey a stronger sense of elegance and integrate better into the scenery. 

As you can see, the subject on the left doesn't looks as elegant as the one on the right. Besides, the natural contrasts from step 1 improve the photo as well.

 

3) Place the subject in the right distance

Legacy by Vijce | Apeldoorn, 2016 // Moonshine Avenue by Vijce | Düsseldorf, 2013

Legacy by Vijce | Apeldoorn, 2016 // Moonshine Avenue by Vijce | Düsseldorf, 2013

Rule of thumb: The closer the silhouette, the more captivating it has to look. The subject on the right looks well dressed, wears a hat and talks to someone on the phone. The further the silhouette is away, the more interesting the scenery has to be.

Of course, it's a bit more complex, but this should help you get started. Try shooting the same silhouette from different distances the next time and see how interesting they feel to you.

 

4) Capture the right Body movement

Twogether by Vijce | Düsseldorf, 2013 // Untitled by Vijce | Düsseldorf, 2013

Twogether by Vijce | Düsseldorf, 2013 // Untitled by Vijce | Düsseldorf, 2013

Sometimes it's really subtle, but it makes a difference in your street photos. When it comes to silhouettes, it's all about the gestures and body movements. On the right: Both subjects walk normally. On the left: The woman's movement was captured too early.

Also pay special attention to the hands and head to make sure it looks good.

 

5) Get rid of all distraction to highlight the silhouette

Burning the Midnight Oil by Vijce | Düsseldorf, 2013 // Untitled by Vijce | Düsseldorf, 2013

Burning the Midnight Oil by Vijce | Düsseldorf, 2013 // Untitled by Vijce | Düsseldorf, 2013

As far as your composition is concerned, make sure to not capture any distracting elements. Distracting people in the background are your number one concern. Ideally, the silhouette has all the room to shine! A bit of background context doesn't hurt though if it's not distracting.


Tip: Master One aspect at a time

These 5 steps will definitely help you master silhouettes. However, I'd recommend to dedicate one photo walk to each step.

Once you have a better feel for all 5 aspects, try to capture them all at once. Otherwise it becomes very frustrating to get it right all at once.

When I started out, I didn't like my silhouettes at all. With lots of dedication, passion and perseverance I one day created my favorite silhoutte ever..

Midnight Cowboy by Vijce | Amsterdam, 2015

Midnight Cowboy by Vijce | Amsterdam, 2015