Skip to main content
July 21, 2014

How to shoot super silhouettes on your Lumia

If there’s one type of Lumia photograph that never fails to impress it’s the silhouette shot.

Although they are often difficult to capture, silhouette photos can be stunning in their simplicity and subtle drama. Needless to say we all want to take photos that tick those boxes, so to find out how to do super silhouettes, we got in touch with a man who can. If you’re a regular reader, you’ll probably remember Husain Ujjainwala. He was one of our first Lumia Instagramers of the Week and a winner of one of our monthly Instagram competitions. What’s more, he’s also a maestro at silhouettes. Happily, he’s agreed to share his magic right here on Conversations. So without further ado, over to the man himself

1. Choose your subject:

Your subject can be almost anything as long as its recognizable. Be it people, birds, trees and human-made structures. I particularly like taking silhouette photos of people because they always leave you curious about who the person in the silhouette might be and what they might look like.. As silhouettes can’t have colours or textures, their shapes need to be distinct enough to hold the interest of the viewers.

Husain Ujjainwala 1

Beach and retirement life. Black and white silhouette shots can create a story very effectively.

2. Pick your place and time

The most important thing when attempting a silhouette is separation of your subject from the background. You can create a stronger image by having less in the photo to compete with your subject. Have them stand in front of a window or a lamp or in a dark room using flash lights or LED’s as the light source– but then comes the challenge of lowlight. Usually, an open sky works well with sun somewhere behind them. And of course, the best time to shoot a silhouette is at sunrise and sunset. The rising and setting sun turns everything orange and if there are some awesome clouds in the sky, even better! Hide the sun behind the subject. Also get low and shoot from low angle to pop up your subject above the horizon line so that it stands out.

Husain Ujjainwala 2

I made sure to get low to the ground in order to change my angle so the subject could stand out. Also clouds in this one helped to give it a dramatic look.

Husain Ujjainwala 3

Took this under a streetlight on an abandoned street. And it was Friday the 13th.

3. Go manuel

As we all know, Lumia phones are famous for their camera capabilities and Nokia camera just gives everything we want and need. Use Manual settings and keep playing with it until you get the desired result. Set ISO at the lowest value possible around 100-200. Lower down the exposure slightly to get a darker silhouette and small details in the sky and clouds. Also play with the white balance which can make a lot of difference and can add that special tint you’re looking for. Set the shutter speed around 2 seconds if you’re shooting in lowlight and use a tripod to get a steady shot. Set the focus near to infinity to get everything sharp and clear.

Husain Ujjainwala 4

Lowering the exposure and a change in white balance did this. Absolutely no filter on it.

4. Shoot a lot

And I really mean a lot. Just keep shooting. You never know what you’ll capture. Make a moment perfect rather than waiting for it. Be ready always!

Husain Ujjainwala 5

It was a disappointing day as there was no dramatic sunset and no exceptional shots. But after hours of shooting and chasing I got this shot and it became one of my favourites.

5. Take time to edit

It’s not always possible to shoot exactly what we want so editing is the last resort to try to achieve that. Don’t be in a hurry. Take time. Adjust the levels, shadows and highlights until you get the look you are hoping for. Don’t be afraid to up your blacks just a bit to get a darker silhouette. Sometimes the simplest looking shot can turn into quite a powerful one when edited correctly. While a total silhouette with a nice crisp and black subject can be a powerful shot, sometimes a small touch of light on them makes them slightly more three dimensional. Keep it simple and clean.

Husain Ujjainwala 6

As I said anything can be a subject, so I picked up this leaf and ta-daaaa!

Husain Ujjainwala 7

“The legend ofthe  haunted tree” is what I call this one. The sky was pretty clear that day and perfect for a silhouette shot. Also, I allowed a bit of light on the tree by bringing up the highlight to give it a three dimensional look.

6. Experiment and have fun

In the end it’s all about having fun. Choose different subjects, try different settings, go crazy with the editing and have fun. It’s the only way to learn.

Husain Ujjainwala 8

After posing for countless times for me, she was about to give up and I clicked at that very moment. It was fun.

Husain Ujjainwala 9

I took this on a recent trip to a hill station. Wasn’t expecting to take a silhouette shot there but weather was quite foggy and it eventually came out good.

Husain Ujjainwala 10

The arrival of monsoon season was kind of epic this year.

Husain Ujjainwala 11

Just a normal morning jog with the sunrise at the back.

Some fantastic tips from our main silhouette man. If you’d like to see more of Husain’s magic be sure to follow him on Instagram. In the meantime, we’d love to hear your top silhouette tips and if you’ve already got the silhouette bug why not share your shots in the comments below too.