Sunset silhouettes are a great way to capture the beauty and magic of a sunset. Silhouettes can be captured from any angle, but there is one technique that really makes them pop! This blog post will go over 5 tips for perfect sunset silhouettes. You’ll learn when you’ll get the best light, how to frame your subject, camera settings, and much more!

What Is a Silhouette?

A silhouette is a type of photograph that captures the shape or outline of an object, animal, person, or scene in black against a lighter background. Silhouettes are often taken at sunset when there is a low sun angle that provides dramatic backlighting. For silhouette ideas that go beyond sunset, check out our silhouette photography tips on Adorama’s blog. We share tips for using off-camera flash and natural light to capture creative silhouettes at any time of the day.

Let’s discuss some tips on capturing the perfect sunset silhouettes.

5 Tips for Perfect Sunset Silhouettes

  1. Find the Right Time of Day for Sunset Silhouettes
  2. Frame Your Subject for Ideal Silhouettes
  3. Dial In The Correct Camera Settings for Sunset Silhouette Photography
  4. Select Ideal Poses for Silhouettes
  5. Edit for with Higher Contrast & Deeper Shadows

person standing on rock shadowTo get good light for your silhouettes, make sure you take pictures during golden hour, usually from about 30 minutes before sunset to one hour after sunrise. You’ll want to find an interesting location with good light. A nice addition is if there are some foreground elements that create depth, such as trees for example. Because the sun is closest to the horizon and sunset and sunrise, you have a higher potential to get a clear silhouette.

2. Frame Your Subject for Ideal Sunset Silhouettes

couple sunset photo shadowPeople often make this mistake and it makes their silhouettes not as strong because they’re too small or cut off at the edges of the frame. If you have trouble seeing your subject well, try using a tripod so that you can work more precisely on framing them correctly without needing to hold up your camera by hand. When photographing people, be mindful about how close you position yourself since closer proximity will usually result in a weaker silhouette.

2 sunset silhouette photography landscapeThis is a great example of how you can easily miss the mark on sunset silhouette photos. The subject isn’t over a clear background and gets lost in the image overall. If the photo was taken from a lower angle then part of the subject’s body would have been visible against the sky’s colors.  Read more about beach silhouettes here.

3. Dial In The Correct Camera Settings for Sunset Silhouette Photography

person silhouette sunset beachThe camera settings for sunset silhouette photography are critical. Follow these photography tips to get the exposure just right. First, we recommend photographing sunset silhouettes in manual mode and maximizing the dynamic range in the scene. This way, your subject will fall into shadows but the sky will remain properly exposed and rich in color.

In order to maximize dynamic range, you’ll want to use your histogram to guide you in selecting the right exposure settings. Start with your lowest possible ISO and then select an aperture and shutter speed to compensate. Your shutter speed will vary depending on whether or not you include action.

4. Select Ideal Poses for Silhouettes

dancer at sunsetFor the first posing tip, get yourself positioned and then pose your subject. Make sure that the parts of your subjects you want silhouetted stand above the horizon line. The best silhouette poses include those that offer interesting shapes. For example, consider a hand on the waist or arms in the air. Some subjects will always look good as a silhouette because they have a strong outline and shape. Others may require a bit of finessing. Incorporating action is a great option for sunset silhouette photography because typically the limbs separate from the body and create a clear outline.

5. Edit for with Higher Contrast & Deeper Shadows

photographer in shadowsSince silhouettes hide the features of a subject’s face, the deeper the shadows in the image the better. If too much detail remains after dialing in exposure settings to maximize dynamic range, you can darken the silhouette in post. Simply increase the contrast and darken the shadows to get the result intended for sunset silhouette photos.