Actually, it’s Backlight + GOBO + Fog = Magically awesome deliciousness, and in this tutorial, we’ll be combining several techniques we’ve spoken about previously to show you how to easily achieve the magic. We’ll be putting the flash behind the subject, a GOBO between the subject and the flash, adding fog, directing the subject into the right pose, then using in-camera exposure settings while balancing flash power to kill ambient light, creating a beautiful and interesting silhouette shot.



This article and video are from the SLRLounge Lighting 201 Workshop.

  • Get the Flash Off Your Camera – In this workshop, we will focus on helping you perfect any scene with only the use of a single off-camera light source!
  • Comprehensive Guide to Lighting Gear – This workshop begins by helping you better understand and master all the different types of lighting gear and technologies. We discuss everything from budget and inexpensive gear to medium and higher quality gear. All the while, we stress that regardless of the type of equipment you use, you can still end up with professional quality results!
  • Advanced Creative Techniques – In this workshop (and this video!), we emphasize creative light control over corrective light control and show you how to use your single off-camera flash to get interesting new looks to your images. Lighting 201 will teach you everything from backlighting your subjects for creative effect, using light modifiers and DIY gobos to manipulate light, and other techniques to help take your images to the next level.



For composition and attributes, we are simply using a peg board that can be purchased for only a few dollars at any local hardware store, and spray painted it black. We then placed it securely and directly behind the model using a C-Stand. You will want to be shooting between f/2 and f/2.8 to get the type of separation between background and subject, so the light effects aren’t too defined.

You’ll notice we are shooting in a small hotel room, and you’ll be able to recreate this type of shot and set-up in just about any small indoor space where you can kill most of the ambient light around you. This also has the added benefit of making the flash sync easy at around 1/200 of a second.


Light direction and quality are going to be relatively self-explanatory, and you can get a good idea of our actual set-up from the video below. We are using a barbell flash placed behind the pinboard GOBO, and we have it gridded to prevent light spill, so we have a more controlled outpour of light.


With the lighting setup complete, to add some mood and drama to the image, simply drop your white balance to give the image a cold blue tone such as the one we’ve done here, even with a flash and no gel.

That is really all there is to this setup, and the rest is down to posing and framing. As silhouettes are all about form, we suggest giving various exaggerated profile poses a try to feature and accentuate your subject’s form. You can use the placement of the flash and overall frame composition to naturally highlight different areas of the body. Keep in mind that when it comes to using a GOBO, shape and size of the light coming through are dependent on two things: the flash distance to the GOBO and the GOBO distance to the subject.

With this information in hand and video at your fingertips, you should be able to pick up whatever camera you have, and execute brilliant silhouette images.

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We hope you enjoyed this tutorial. If you’re interested in learning more about learning lighting with off-camera flash, then be sure to check out Lighting 201!