One of my very favorite places to be in the summertime is watching the sun set during an evening cruise on the lake. When Parker was smaller, it was one of the best ways to unwind him from a day of swimming, boating, and lots of playing. The water gently laps against the sides of the boat, as the sun slips behind the horizon and we awe in the beauty of another day. It’s one of our favorite times together as a family, and some of my most cherished memories of being at the lake. Let’s celebrate moments like this with a couple of silhouette photo tips!

Summer’s late sunsets gives us the perfect opportunity to make beautiful silhouetted images — where the subject of our photograph is dark and the background sings the melody with loads of contrast. The drama of a silhouette is striking because our imagination has to fill in some of the blanks that we don’t see about the subject. The emotion and mystery creates the connection to the story we’re telling.

Silhouettes aren’t difficult to photograph! To set yourself up for success, here’s a couple of guidelines:

  • Wait until the sun is very low in the sky for the most drama
  • Make sure the background is brighter than your subject to make it stand out. (If you’re shooting in Manual, meter for the sky)
  • Look for interesting shapes to enhance the story
  • Turn off your flash
Silhouette photo tip — creating summer sillhouettes that sizzle! Cathy Mores Photography photo tips for moms

Settings: f/2.8, 1/100, ISO 3200.

Parker is in his usual spot at the front of the boat, looking out over the horizon, while Mike carefully watches ahead. The last light of day barely peeks over the horizon, while the calm waves lap around us. I like that we can see the dials on the boat, and some of the lighter parts of the steering wheel. It helps give a little bit of dimension to the image and helps establish our sense of place.

Metering for the sky ensured that it was the highlight of the image, the last peeks of sunlight through the windshield of the boat (a sure sign of a good day on the water). It also made the separation between the subject and the background stronger, which makes silhouettes so appealing. Because silhouettes are usually photographed at twilight, you’ll have to bump your ISO up to make sure your shutter speed is nice and fast.

Try making silhouettes with lots of objects! Simple shapes make a great subjects, and as you grow more confident in your settings your creativity will soar with beautiful storytelling silhouettes. Cheers!

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Cathy is located in Manhattan, Kansas, and frequently travels to her clients around the Midwest. To find out details regarding upcoming travel dates, or to book a custom travel session, please contact for more information and availability.