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7 Steps to Creating the Perfect Silhouette Portrait

Capture a unique beautiful perspective with silhouette portraits

I’ll be the first to admit that as my daughter steps closer and closer to her 2nd birthday, I yearn to hang onto her baby features. She has the sweetest chubby cheeks, long eyelashes, a little button nose, and soft, fine baby hair.

As I look back to photographs of her when she turned one, I can see how much she has changed. She is quickly departing the baby phase! This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience, read full disclosure policy

Before that happens,

I want to capture all those details of my daughter, and a silhouette portrait is the best way to do so. The art of a silhouette portrait produces an emotion-filled image, capturing movement, body language, and details we sometimes miss in portrait photography.

How do you take a silhouette photo?

The technique places a dark subject against a light background, creating a dramatic image. I turned to Minted to help me showcase my daughter’s silhouette portrait.

Their artists worked with my image and printed it in foil! I chose this silver foil style and a white-washed Shabby Chic frame. The result is incredibly beautiful, and now I plan to do more at other milestones in her life! Check out my tips below for capturing dramatic silhouette portraits.

7 Steps to Creating the Perfect Silhouette Portrait7 Steps to Creating the Perfect Silhouette Portrait




The background must be brighter than your subject.

You can capture a portrait silhouette outdoors or indoors. The objective is to make your subject stand out by using backlighting. Put a bright light source, such as a sunset, sunrise, or window, in front of you and behind your subject.


Isolate your subject in the frame.

Avoid distracting elements such as trees or anything in the background that blocks the light source or takes attention away from your subject. If you are photographing more than one person in silhouette, leave at least a little space between them to keep their figures from blurring together. Each subject must be identifiable.


Capture your subject’s distinct shape and details.

When framing a silhouette, consider your subject’s position. Choose a pose that highlights their features. Focus on finding the outline of their eyes, nose, and mouth. That is where the beauty of a portrait silhouette is found.


Your subject should appear black or at least dark in the frame.

Always leave the flash turned off for a silhouettes. Instead, use spot metering. Meter your camera off the lightest part of the background. This will leave your subject darkened, thus creating a silhouette.


You need to capture space around your subject.

Part of isolating step #2 above involves capturing the bright background that surrounds your subject. If you are planning to shoot outdoors, I recommend a wide-angle lens such as a 24mm or 35mm.  Otherwise, a standard 50mm lens will work too.


These four simple settings for portrait silhouettes can make a world of difference!

  • First, put your camera in manual mode to expose the background.
  • Second, adjust your shutter speed to black out your subject, such as ISO 100.
  • Next, set your aperture between 4.0 and 8.0 to ensure that your subject is still sharp and in focus.
  • Last, remember to use spot metering; see step #4. P.S. If you need a refresher on camera settings, print or pin my Photography Cheat Sheets in the Life-n-Reflection Library.


A little post-processing is always recommended for Photoshop Junkie like me.

If you do decide to post-process your image increase the vibrancy, contrast, and saturation. Upload to Minted and select the crop lines for your portrait silhouette. Then, Preview your silhouette in the automatic conversion to black and white.

An artist will work the image to enhance the details and remove anything like “fly-away hair”. You will receive a preview of the artist’s rendering for your approval before the silhouette print is made.

7 Steps to Creating the Perfect Silhouette Portrait

You can also apply techniques to landscape photography! Have you attempted the art of silhouettes? I know I was certainly intimidating the first time I attempted to capture a silhouette. Let me know if you try, and don’t forget to check out Minted’s Foil Silhouettes.

Photography Basics


  1. I’ve been wanting to make a silhouette portrait since a while. Thanks for breaking the steps down. 🙂

    1. lifenreflection says:

      Silhouette’s seem imitating don’t they? Breaking it down into steps does make it easier. Glad I could help!

  2. Yes, love the silhouette. When my boys were young, we were on vacation and they had gone down to fish very early, I followed with camera. The sun wasn’t quite up and it was foggy, and by accident I got a silhouette of both of them at the end of the dock and then one of my youngest which was closer with his features outlined. I’ve always loved those two photos. My photos were by accident, and did not know how to do it on purpose so thanks for sharing. 🙂

    1. lifenreflection says:

      Silhouette’s are beautiful aren’t there, I hope you capture another of your boys together.

  3. I love these profile silhouettes, especially of kids and dogs! Will have to add this crafty idea to my very long idea list. Visiting from Made By You Mondays party.

    1. lifenreflection says:

      Thanks Victoria!

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