Striking Silhouettes for Visual Impact

by Kerry Drager

Here’s my daughter-in-law posing and having fun in the dramatic evening sunlight at Morro Strand State Beach, CA Coast. (Thanks, Kim!) This image, by the way, is part of my “Figure in the Scenery” series, in which the subject serves solely as a design element, as opposed to being a close-up and identifiable star of the picture.


Picture Details: F/10 @ 1/1500th second. 100 ISO. 24-85mm zoom lens set at 44mm.

Photo Strategy: The extreme bright-vs.-dark backlighting was ideal for spotlighting Kim’s form — via silhouette. For shooting, I used a continuous “burst” mode in order to fire off a rapid series of pictures. Along with a fast shutter speed, that technique helps ensure hand-holding sharpness while also helping to catch the peak of the action. In addition, I set my zoom lens for VR (Vibration Reduction).

Silhouetting Tip: Make sure the main areas of your silhouetted subject are set against lighter tones. You want to minimize the amount of merging between  dark subject and the dark parts of the background. That’s what makes a silhouette really out in a photo!

My B&W workflow: The lighting contrast combined with little color also made for ideal black-and-white conditions. I first processed the Raw color image in Adobe Camera Raw. Then I converted it to B&W in Photoshop CC (Image > Adjustments > Black and White). The picture was fine-tuned with red and other B&W filters.

Like what you see? Check out Kerry’s website: …  Also see his classes and workshops


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