This month on the blog I’m going to be sharing some fun ways to get your children involved in photography. I’m a big believer in taking regular photos of your children so you can document their days, weeks and years, but sometimes it’s good to get creative and have a little fun with it too!
Today’s post is a tutorial for making some fun silhouette photos with your children. My two year old daughter loved making these silhouettes (or as we called it – taking photos of her shadow), and the older your children are the more creative you’ll be able to be.
To create your silhouette photos you will need:
A large window
A white sheet or shower curtain, and something to tape or hang it up with
Dark coloured clothes for your child(ren) to wear
Props to add interest to the silhouettes – for example fairy wings as we used, or some hats
To create a silhouette you need a plain, bright background which is lit from the other side. At home, a large window with a white sheet over it is one easy way to create such a backdrop. Start by hanging or taping your sheet over your chosen window. It’s ideal if the window you use runs all the way to the floor – for example on patio doors. But, you can still make some fun photos with any window. I do recommend ironing the sheet before you hang it up. As you can see mine had some creases in it when I first hung it up, and these will show in the photos.
Dress your child in some dark coloured clothes – black is ideal. Depending on what kind of shapes you’re hoping to make, you may like to use well fitting clothes, such as leggings, to give your silhouettes a defined shape. If you don’t have any black clothes just find the darkest you can. As you might be able to spot in the photos in this post, my daughter’s dress has a small pattern on it – despite it being white, it is hardly visible – so don’t worry if the outfit isn’t all dark.
If your window doesn’t stretch all the way to the floor, you could stand your child on a step so that the whole of their body appears in the bright part of the frame. Or, you can just keep it as is. I didn’t feel comfortable balancing my daughter on a step without another adult around (and with me behind the camera) so I just left it as is. After all, this was just a fun activity for us both to do so it didn’t need to be perfect.
The last thing I did was to put a piece of masking tape on the floor where I wanted my daughter to stand. She didn’t stand on it all of the time….but more often than I had expected!
Taking the Silhouette Photo
To achieve a nice, dark silhouette you’ll want your background to be well lit, and your child to be underexposed. Depending on your camera and settings, there are a few ways to achieve this.
If you’re using your DSLR camera’s ‘Auto’ setting: When you take a photo on the automatic setting your camera will do all that it can to achieve an even exposure across the whole image. This is not what we want when creating a silhouette though – we want a lot of contrast. To ‘override’ this setting point your camera at the brightest part of the scene (in this case the white sheet) and press the shutter half way. Keep the shutter pressed halfway, and turn the camera back to your child. Press the shutter down completely to take your photo.
If you’re shooting in manual mode: meter for the brightest part of the photograph so that the sheet is well exposed and your child is not. After taking one photo check the back of your camera to see if you’re happy with the contrast. I found that I needed to over expose the background to achieve the right balance.
If you’re using your phone’s camera: most phone cameras give you the ability to adjust the exposure of your photograph before you take it. To create your silhouette photo, point your camera at the brightest part of the sheet, and tap the screen on this bright part. Use the exposure function to increase the exposure so that the sheet appears white and your child appears as dark as possible before taking the photo. You can read about how to adjust exposure on your phone camera in this tutorial.
How to Edit a Silhouette Portrait
Now that you have your photograph it’s time to edit it to create the perfect silhouette. To edit the photo you see above I took the following steps:
1. Converted it to black and white
2. Increased the contrast to the maximum
3. Pulled the blacks all the way down
4. Increased the whites and highlights
In other words I added as much contrast as I could.
In some of the photographs in this post I also removed the creases that were still visible in my sheet. I used Photoshop to do this, but most editing software gives you the option to do this. You can even clean up the background on your phone using the Healing Brush in Snapseed. (Read more about editing photos on your phone here.)
Have some fun with your silhouette pictures
Now that you’ve mastered creating silhouette photos, have some fun with them. You can try different props, shapes, and adding movement. The older your child, the more creative you can be. It can also be nice to keep a little bit of detail in the photos when you edit, such as in the photos below.
Create Silhouette Photos Outdoors
You can also create some lovely silhouettes outdoors. Sunset at the beach is a wonderful time to do this – the sky provides the bright background that you need, and the sun lights your subject from behind creating the appearance of a silhouette. Again, you want to expose for the brightest part of the image (in this case the sky) so that your child appears as a silhouette.
Over to you
I’d love to hear how you get on creating these silhouette photos with your children. Let me know in the comments below.