A Musing on Silhouette Photography: The Balance of Light and Shadows

Silhouette photography is something everyone should try.

As a portrait/wedding photographer, I spend a great deal of time perfecting the balance of light and shadows in any given image. We see a scene with our eyes and while it may be beautiful visually, there are some things that each of our minds assume. While one person may imagine a less contrasted, more dreamy vision, another may see a bold, contrasted and colorful scene. This single fact is what makes a group of photographers photograph the exact same moment, person or situation and have surprisingly unique results.. It is our own selves that reflect back in the images we make and we could no more separate ourselves than the ocean could be separate from the water that fills it up. As an artist, I appreciate both and after years of practice I continue create both. Sometimes, I’ll go a while without using silhouettes in my work and each time that I come back to them I’m reminded of how powerful they can be.


As an Olympus Visionary and studio owner we are always looking for ways to deliver the most impactful and beautiful images for our studio guests. Silhouettes are just one of the ways we’ve been able to really wow our clients with the expression of their relationships.

What makes us all love an image is how it makes us feel. Even if one loves an image because it is technically correct it is still the feeling that the photographer executed with perfection or near perfection, or respect for the level of skill, or the feeling that there is a possibility of learning from an image that causes us to be drawn to that image. Emotion is imperative in image creation. Silhouettes offer a unique opportunity for the subject to be anyone. Since the subject falls away into shadow, anyone could place him or herself into the image without too much imagination allowing the viewer to intensely feel that moment should they so choose.

There is no distraction of the look of the subject, of the expression of the subject or the clothing of the subject. The mind is left with a blank to fill with whatever the viewers imagination dreams up. Silhouettes are such an easy and effective addition to the flow of any session in studio and outdoors. Additionally, they offer a unique way to practice posing the body without having to give attention to facial expression. The artist is left to create whatever body language he/she desires against a backdrop of dramatic color and interesting content leaving us with questions. What do they look like? Why are they there? How do they feel? How would I feel if I were there?

In studio, when photographing an expectant mom, several of the most powerful images I love to create are silhouettes of mom turned to the side. This displays the shape of her growing belly and the is a stark image of the unique and temporary body that a woman experiences in the last weeks of pregnancy.

Give it a try! Happy shooting!

For even more, be sure to check out Tracie’s website.