Indoor Scenes | Dark Silhouettes Shot with Natural Light or Flash

Whether shooting with natural light or flash, back lighting is key for photographing dark silhouettes. For basic backlit images, photographers usually expose for the subject and blowout the details in the background. Backlit silhouettes, however, are often moodier and the exposure is darker.

So, how do we add light to the scene while maintaining a dark silhouette? Light can be added while photographing dark silhouettes by using grids or snoots and lowering the power of the flash to 1/16 or 1/32 to control the light and avoid spilling it across the scene.

Hotel rooms, homes, or any indoor location with large enough windows can make for great silhouette locations.

Here is our approach for photographing dark silhouettes with natural light or flash:

  • Distance from light source for brightness
  • Angle for light pattern
  • Sheers to soften light
  • Curtains = strip box
  • Added light needs control (grid/snoot)
  • Open/fill shadows if needed
  • Separated mixed lighting
  • Window tint/green shift

Exposure goals for dark silhouettes:

  • Maximum dynamic range
  • Bias: preserve shadows
  • Temperature: 5500-6000K