How To Create Silhouettes on Safari

Gerry van der Walt All Authors Leave a Comment

No trip to Africa will be complete without a silhouette image or two.




Silhouettes are a great way to convey the mood and drama of a scene and by keeping a few simple things in mind you will be able to create amazingly simple yet striking images.


In order to create a really powerful and effective silhouette you really only need two things.


  • A strong, easily recognisable subject
  • Bright light from behind the subject


Almost any subject can make a good silhouette but some will obviously work better than others.  What you want to look for is subjects which are easily recognisable wihout too many distracting elements around it.




Now we can go into a whole lot of technical details of how to expose for the highlights and which settings to use – and we most definitely will at some stage – but for now the important things to remember is this.


  • Make sure your subject is in front of your light source
  • Keep your composition simple
  • Expose for the brightest, or at least the brighter, parts of the image


Now if that last one throws you a bit, don’t worry.  If your subject is small enough your camera’s metering mode, even if Auto mode, will do a pretty good job of exposing for the bright areas.  


The larger your subject is (in the frame) the more the likelihood you will have to ‘help’ the exposure a bit.   


You can do this in two ways.


  • Underexpose the image by using exposure compensation
  • Spot meter off the brightest part of the sky


If you don’t know how to do either of these drop me a comment and I will cover this in a future blog post or video tutorial.




Even though ‘normal’ silhouette generally means that your subject is completely black with no detail it can add a great deal to an image if you can include the smallest bit of details on the subject.


This will add a nice feeling of depth in the image and makes the subject more realistic than the pure black representation you find in a pure black silhouette.




So there you go.  


When you are next out on safari give it a try and create some silhouettes and remember – photographic ‘rules’ are only guidelines and sometimes the need to be broken


If you have anything to add or have any questions please feel free to leave a comment below!


Until next time.


Gerry van der Walt


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